California Highway Patrol spokesman Adam Shelton said said the 1995 Kenworth tractor-trailer was heading south on Highway 33 shortly before 6 p.m. when it struck a BMW sedan traveling west on Durham Ferry Road. The BMW had just left a stop sign at the highway intersection when it was struck, the tractor-trailer tearing a section off the front of the sedan.
The tractor-trailer, pulling a flatbed with a single section of concrete pipe, veered off the road, jackknifed and overturned, blocking the northbound lane of the highway.
The 57,000-pound concrete pipe was thrown from the trailer and bounced along the highway, gouging sections of asphalt before rolling into weeds on the west side of the road.
The driver of the tractor-trailer, a 23-year-old man from Vallecito, was trapped in the cab, which was crushed when it rolled over.
Division Chief David Bramell said three Tracy Fire Department engines and the ladder truck were sent to rescue the driver.
The crew from Station 93, a block away from the accident, was first on scene and found the undercarriage of the tractor-trailer on fire.
Bramell said they extinguished the fire and then started trying to free the driver from the twisted wreckage.
“Most of the driver was not visible in the wreckage — we could only see his torso,” Bramell said. “The fact that the cab was still attached to the trailer made it difficult to push or move.”
Crews spent 50 minutes pulling and cutting the cab apart to reach the driver. Bramell said freeing him required all the tools at their disposal. “The sheer amount of equipment we had to use made it one of the most complex extrications in some time.”
Crews used stabilizing bars and wooden cribbing to prevent the cab from shifting and collapsing further. They tried to use air bags to raise the cab, but its weight made that impractical, Bramell said.
Eventually, a big-rig tow truck lifted the remains of the cab high enough to allow the driver to be pulled free.
A fourth fire engine was called to set up a landing site for a helicopter, which flew the driver to an area hospital.
Shelton described injuries to both drivers as minor: cuts, bruises and scrapes.
Bramell said Caltrans assessed the damage to the roadway from the concrete pipe. The westbound lanes of Highway 33 were opened shortly after 8:30 p.m. and the entire highway was reopened at 9:45 p.m.
No other cars were involved in the crash or damaged by the section of pipe.
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