One motorist was killed and five others injured Thursday when a big rig carrying a load of lettuce slammed into a car entering the roadway and flipped over, causing a series of collisions and forcing the closure of California 126 near Santa Paula.
The accident occurred about 1:30 p.m. on a busy stretch of the highway between Santa Paula and Fillmore. Angie Ornelas, 89, of Santa Paula was pronounced dead at the scene.
A 48-year-old Fillmore woman was trapped for 90 minutes in her Toyota Corolla beneath the overturned 18-wheeler. The accident triggered a chain-reaction collision involving several vehicles that tied up traffic for miles in both directions for more than five hours.
Eight engines from the Ventura County Fire Department, along with numerous California Highway Patrol vehicles and California Department of Transportation trucks and skip loaders, responded to the accident scene, just east of Orcutt Road.
To free Rosie Hurtado from the Toyota, which was wedged between the truck cab and trailer, authorities used three cranes to elevate the big rig enough to allow a tow truck to pull her vehicle free.
“She’s very fortunate. It was a great rescue by the Fire Department and the crane operators,” said CHP Officer Steve Reid.
Hurtado was conscious and communicating with officers while rescuers worked to free her. She was transported by helicopter to Ventura County Medical Center where a nursing supervisor said she remained in critical condition in the intensive care unit Thursday night. Hurtado’s left leg was broken in two places and she had “pretty substantial head lacerations and a possible concussion,” the supervisor said.
Reid said investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the crash.
Truck driver Paul Mirelez, 66, of Norco was hauling 38 bins of lettuce eastbound on California 126, authorities said, when a Chrysler New Yorker driven by Ornelas pulled away from a roadside vendor directly into the path of Mirelez’s truck. The truck slammed into the car, rolled over onto its right side and landed on Hurtado’s westbound Toyota. Three other vehicles either collided with the big rig or one another.
The dead woman’s 81-year-old brother-in-law and Mirelez were both taken to Santa Paula Memorial Hospital. The man was in guarded condition Thursday night.
Reid said Mirelez’s injuries were not serious and that he was walking around and talking after the accident. Two other drivers complained of minor pain and were treated at the scene.