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Costa Mesa : Driver Involved in Tanker Fire Surrenders

The driver of a car that smashed into a gasoline tanker truck early Monday in Costa Mesa, causing both vehicles to burn, turned himself in to police later that day after fleeing the scene, police said.

John Stanley Wolczak, 38, of Santa Inez was not booked when he walked into the Costa Mesa police station late Monday morning. But police have turned the case over to the Orange County district attorney’s office, seeking prosecution for misdemeanor hit-and-run, Floyd Waldron, a Traffic Bureau investigator, said.

The driver of the 1976 Dodge station wagon sideswiped a pickup truck and then careened into the Unocal double-tank truck at Newport Boulevard and 19th Street, where the truck was turning into a gas station to make a delivery. Witnesses said they saw the station wagon’s driver flee on foot after climbing out of a window.

One of the truck’s tanks--with a capacity of 5,000 gallons--ruptured and exploded, creating an intense fire that melted four traffic signals at the intersection, but no one was injured. The second tank began leaking but did not ignite.

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Wolczak, who was visiting his parents in Tustin for the Father’s Day weekend, suffered only minor bruises and cuts, “nothing that required hospital care,” Waldron said.

The 1 a.m. accident caused morning traffic snarls because cleanup crews took 10 hours to reopen Newport Boulevard.


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