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Driver Killed as Truck Hits Freeway Pillar

Times Staff Writer

A speeding concrete pumping truck apparently blew a tire, veered sharply out of control and smashed into a pillar on the San Diego Freeway in Inglewood early Monday, killing the driver, injuring a motorist and jamming commuter traffic for hours, the California Highway Patrol said.

Much of the busy freeway was closed until the truck’s wreckage could be cleared away. Traffic was backed up about two miles in both directions from the accident scene at the La Cienega Boulevard overpass.

Nearby Streets Jammed

The southbound lanes of the freeway were closed for about eight hours after the accident, reopening at 12:20 p.m. The northbound side was closed for about two hours, after which two lanes reopened.

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Thousands of northbound motorists slowly edged past the wreckage until 9:30 a.m., when all northbound lanes reopened, Caltrans reported. Nearby streets, such as Sepulveda Boulevard, were jammed.

The truck driver was identified as Norton Roosevelt, 54, of Compton.

CHP spokeswoman Diana Vickers blamed “excessive speed” for the shattering impact, which tore chucks off of a center divider and cracked a steel-reinforced pillar, but she declined to estimate the speed of the truck. “He was going faster than 55,” she said. “We got that by the way the truck was damaged.”

The big three-axle vehicle, owned by American Standard Concrete Pumping Inc. of Gardena, was northbound at 4:50 a.m. when it suddenly veered across two lanes of traffic, topped the center divider and struck a support pillar on the southbound side of the freeway, CHP Officer Vicki Ogden said.

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“It looked like the truck exploded on impact,” Ogden said.

“All the axles had been ripped from the carriage. The engine was out. It was just everywhere.”

CHP Officer Mark Howard said marks on the freeway indicate that the truck may have blown a left front tire.

Heavy tow trucks and a flatbed truck were summoned to remove the wreckage, including the engine and front axle, which were thrown into the freeway lanes.

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A flying four-pound chunk of metal from the wreck shattered the windshield of a southbound car driven by Efrain Orozco, 31, of Northridge, causing what the CHP described as major facial injuries.

Orozco was taken to Centinela Hospital, where he underwent surgery and was later reported in serious condition.

Debris Hit Cars

Debris also struck cars driven by Bernal Bowen, 72, of Bakersfield, and Eva M. Alexander, 64, of Sylmar. The CHP said neither woman was injured, but their cars had to be towed away.

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Caltrans called in a structural engineer, who examined the cracked support column and decided that it would be safe to reopen the La Cienega overpass to traffic.

Times staff writer George Fry contributed to this article.


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