The driver of a truck that crashed and sparked a brush fire alongside a Ventura County freeway was recovering Friday after crawling into a drainage pipe for safety and being airlifted from the wreckage.
Authorities said a pickup truck collided with an SUV at 5:40 a.m. before crashing through a guard rail and down into a ravine near the 118 Freeway in Simi Valley.
The crash sparked brush fire along the hillside. Aerial video showed flames shooting into the air as commuters drove through smoke.
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Firefighters dousing the 5-acre blaze then realized someone was in the truck below, said Rich Macklin with Ventura County Fire. LA County Fire's air support was called in to rescue him.
"We realized we had to get a lot of the fire out before we could send a rescuer down," pilot Adam Henoy said.
Paramedic Jeff Duran said he called out when he couldn't see the driver, who had crawled into a drainage pipe to seek shelter from the fire.
"My initial thought was, if there is someone in this vehicle, there's no way he could've survived," Duran said. "I was thankful that we were able to get him through that small opening."
Rescuers opted against using a tagline to airlift the driver to the helicopter in order to save time. A tagline would have minimized the spinning that happened as the driver was hoisted up some 200 feet to safety from deep in a ravine.
He was taken to Providence Holy Cross, where the man was stable enough to speak with doctors, Duran said.
Crews got control over the fire thanks to a lack of wind in the area, but the smoke snarled traffic and temporarily shut down two lanes of the westbound side.
The cause of the initial crash between the truck and SUV was not immediately clear.