Overturned dump truck causes outages in the Foothills

A dump truck loaded with dirt overturned on Briggs Avenue after losing its brakes Tuesday morning, briefly causing power outages in La Crescenta and La Cañada Flintridge.

The truck driver said he purposely overturned his truck alongside the Pickens Debris Basin wash to avoid a potentially deadly multi-car collision at the intersection of Foothill Boulevard.

Several utility poles were felled by the runaway truck before it came to rest on its side on a steeply sloped area of the wash on the edge of a concrete channel.

Lois Pitter Bruce, a spokesman for Southern California Edison, said that 2,369 customers initially lost power because of the crash. Within the hour, power was restored to 1,777 customers, but 592 customers remained without power into Tuesday afternoon.

The utility planned to have power restored to those customers — mostly in the area south of Cross Street, north of Verdugo Boulevard, west of Encinas Drive and east of Sunset Avenue — by Wednesday morning, she said.

“I was a little bit scared. There were five or six cars waiting at the light [at Foothill]. I thought I’d rather hit the poles than crash into people, so I just went to the left,” said truck driver Gilbert Rivas, 24, who was unhurt in the incident.

Emergency first-responders said power was quickly restored to most customers after the 11:40 a.m. crash.

“It sounded like an explosion,” said witness O.J. Rodriguez, manager of the La Crescenta Motel, who described seeing sparks fly as electrical wires snapped when utility poles were struck.

Two large tow trucks worked throughout the early afternoon to right the truck and pull it out of the wash area.

The California Highway Patrol and county Sheriff’s, Fire and Public Works departments responded to the incident.

“Apparently he lost control of his brakes heading toward the intersection, basically a similar situation to the one we had on Angeles Crest Highway [in April 2009],” said L.A. County Fire Battalion Chief Ron Larriva, referring to a runaway truck crash that killed two people and injured several others at that Foothill Boulevard intersection in La Cañada Flintridge. “We’re thankful this one didn’t go that far.”

The truck was carrying dirt from the Canyonside Road Culvert Project, which is in the upper reaches of Pickens Canyon, said county public works spokesman Kerjon Lee.

David Escher, a witness who was also at the motel, said he was impressed by the driver’s quick thinking.

“If it checks out that the brakes really were out, this guy’s a hero,” Escher said.

A Los Angeles County dump truck tipped over on Foothill Boulevard in November, spilling about four tons of dirt and rocks excavated from a local debris basin. No one was seriously injured in that incident.

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