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Hydraulic Lift Hits Sign on Golden State Freeway, Snarling Traffic for 7 Hours

Traffic on the northbound Golden State Freeway in Sylmar was tied up for more than seven hours Wednesday after a tractor-trailer truck carrying a hydraulic lift hit an overhead sign, scattering debris over three lanes of the freeway.

No one was injured in the incident, which occurred about 1 p.m. near the Foothill Freeway intersection. California Highway Patrol Officer Ralph Elvira said traffic, which slowed to a snail’s pace, was backed up past the Simi Valley Freeway interchange--about three miles.

Truck driver Skip Weill, 28, of Torrance said he was transporting the “scissors” lift from Irvine to Valencia when the lift somehow raised up and struck the top of the 25-foot-high sign.

Weill works for the Mac Rents company.

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“It wasn’t that big of a bang, and, at first, I thought something had hit the truck,” he said. “I think the lift control just malfunctioned. I’m just glad nobody was hurt.”

Portions of the sign and the lift fell onto the freeway.

Dale Turner, a Los Angeles Police Department motorcycle officer, said he was on his way home from work about 1 p.m. when he saw the lift suddenly spring up and hit the sign.

“Debris was flying all over the place,” he said. “Cars were veering every which way.”

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Turner said he stopped, made sure the driver was not injured, and then called the California Highway Patrol and the state Department of Transportation.

“It’s a miracle nobody was hurt,” he said.

The two right lanes of the freeway were closed immediately and the other three lanes were closed between 7 and 8 p.m. while Caltrans crews worked to clean up debris and remove the 30-foot by 10-foot sign. A Caltrans worker, Eladio Martinez, said there was considerable damage to the structure of the 17,000-pound sign, which covers five freeway lanes.

The freeway was reopened at 8:12 p.m., the CHP said.

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