The 120 Bypass claimed another life Monday at the height of the afternoon commute.
The deadliest freeway pavement in the 209 — eastbound 120 between the Main Street interchange and the Highway 99 transition ramps — was where one motorist lost his life, two others suffered major injuries and six sustained minor injuries when six vehicles and a semi-truck crashed into each other Monday at 5:15 p.m.
A semi 18-wheeler, loaded with a chocolate product and owned by J.B. Carrier, of Reno, Nevada, jackknifed in the crash behind cars breaking for the backed up traffic. One pickup truck that turned over on its top was crushed by the impact as were other vehicles. The semi was believed to have been traveling back to its Nevada base at the time of the crash.
Manteca Fire Department Battalion Chief David Marques was the first responder to arrive on scene finding some 20 commuters out of their vehicles. He gave first aid and helped the injured, keeping their spines and heads supported, while others manned fire extinguishers to prevent the smoking vehicles from erupting into flames.
The fatally injured motorist was trapped in his car, the chief said, and had to be extricated by firefighters. Fifteen firemen from both Manteca Fire Department and the Lathrop-Manteca Fire Department responded to the scene as the eastbound 120 Bypass was shut down by the highway patrol.
All of the injured were transported to area hospitals by multiple ambulances that were rushed to the scene just east of the South Main Street overcrossing that quickly filled with onlookers wanting to get a look at the incident. Westbound traffic also backed up as motorists’ gawked at the twisted multiple vehicle carnage.
Four tow truck drivers were assigned to vehicles when the CHP officers concluded their investigation. Most of the vehicles had to be removed on flatbed trucks because their condition wouldn’t allow them to be towed from the scene.
The bypass traffic backup is a daily occurrence as motorists in the left lane wait until the last minute and cut into the right traffic lane just prior to entering the transition ramp to southbound Highway 99. That often causes a chain reaction of braking father down the bypass near the Main Street overcrossing.
Caltrans workers were also on the scene taking pictures and filling out their own report on what happened as their department considers engineering plans that may hopefully lower the hazard level facing commuters.
In just the first year the bypass opened over three decades ago there were some 20 motorists who lost their lives due to the initial use of so-called suicide lanes with two lanes going into one and then back to two. The death rate slowed after the bypass was converted into a freeway.
During a five year period ending November 2013, Manteca Fire units responded to 289 injury accidents that resulted in seven deaths.
In the past year, first responders say an average of two accidents are happening on the 120 corridor mostly near where Monday’s fatality happened. A majority of accidents, however, are primarily property damaged.
A number of commuters heading to the Modesto-Ripon area from Bay Area jobs will get off at Union Road and Airport Way and take surface streets to reach Highway 99 at Austin Road.
To contact Glenn Kahl, email firstname.lastname@example.org.