Byline: Bhavna Mistry Staff Writer
ACTON – A Littlerock tow truck driver died Monday after his truck ran off the rain-slickened Antelope Valley Freeway and overturned as it plunged down a 75-foot embankment, officials said.
The 36-year-old man’s name was not released pending notification of his family, California Highway Patrol officials said.
“It was raining heavily,” said CHP Officer Eddie Corugedo. “The roadway was wet and for some unknown reason he allowed his vehicle to drift.”
The 9:45 a.m. wreck near Puritan Mine Road separated the truck’s bed from its frame, demolished the cab and left the driver trapped between the vehicle’s door and window.
Firefighters had to use chain saws to cut through brush in which the truck landed, then deployed heavy-duty rubber air bags to lift up the cab.
“It was a horrendous crash,” said Los Angeles County fire Capt. Tom Quick. “As soon as we got it lifted, we pulled him out as quick as we could. But the heavy rains created mud and the soft dirt was a problem.”
The driver worked for High Desert Towing in Littlerock and was the company’s second driver since December to die on the Antelope Valley Freeway.
Benjamin Chaves, 26, was killed in December about two miles south of Monday’s crash. He was hit by a vehicle while changing a tire for a stranded motorist. The motorist also died.
The morning rains slowed the southbound commute on the Golden State and Antelope Valley freeways, causing numerous minor traffic collisions.
“We had at least a 50 percent increase just from the light rain we had,” said CHP Sgt. Andrew Hernandez. “People weren’t anticipating the roads to be as slippery and they are not adjusting their speed.”
Rainfall was lighter in the Antelope Valley, with 0.18 inch measured in Palmdale, according to the Palmdale Water District, and just a trace in Lancaster.
The National Weather Service said rainfall this season has been among the lightest on record: just 2.2 inches in Palmdale before Monday and 2.03 inches in Lancaster. The average is 7.14 inch in Palmdale and 7.81 inches in Lancaster.
The weather service predicted mostly sunny skies in the Antelope Valley today, but with winds up to 30 mph and temperatures in the 60s. Temperatures are expected to climb into the 70s and 80s by the weekend.
(1 — color) Firefighters work to free a tow truck driver Monday after his vehicle went over the side of the Antelope Valley Freeway and overturned.
(2 — color) Rescuers had to deploy heavy-duty rubber air bags to lift up the cab of the tow truck that went over the side of the freeway.
John Lazar/Staff Photographer