One injured in runaway big rig crash

September 05, 2008|By Mary O'Keefe

Skilled driving and a fortuitous green light on Angeles Crest Highway at Foothill Boulevard were credited for there being no serious injuries Friday after a big rig lost its brakes on the highway, entered a driveway at Hill Street Cafe, crashed into a wall, a garbage bin, a tree and six vehicles before coming to rest in the parking lot.

The drama, which drew local television crews and media helicopters to town, unfolded at about 6:50 a.m. Friday. James Bines, 43, of Florida and his passenger Willy Robinson, had been hauling a full load of onions through the high desert area in the 18-wheeler. They traveled over Angeles Crest Highway because, Bines said, he had received directions from his global positioning system that the highway, State Route 2, was the most direct route from there to Los Angeles.

The truck, fully loaded, was estimated to weigh 78,000 pounds and has Florida license plates. The lettering on the side of the truck identified it as belonging to D & H Transportation, Inc. in Florida.


According to Robinson, he and Bines had just come over the 'Crest and saw the signal light at the new Sport Chalet entrance on Angeles Crest was red, as was the signal at Foothill Boulevard.

“[Bines] braked and we smelled something [burning],” he said. Together they realized the rig's brakes were not working. Before they reached the first light, it turned green and traffic began to move.

“We were honking and I was waving for everyone to get out of the way,” Robinson said.

A driver in front of the truck did not see Robinson's frantic moves and pulled in front of the big rig. Bines, Robinson said, had to use evasive action to avoid hitting the vehicle.

“Then, in the blink of a moment, the light [at Foothill] turned green and we made our way [across the street],” Robinson said.

Cafe employee Simon Lim was in the parking lot when the big rig plowed

through. “I didn’t hear any braking noise," he said. " There was just a wind sound. “

Then the big rig careened past him. Lim said he didn’t even have time to react. When he turned around he saw the big rig and the carnage of twisted metal.

“The driver got out of the truck and just got down on the ground,” Lim said.

Lim said he realized how lucky he was. “But he was really lucky," pointing to another man standing in the parking lot with a stunned look on his face.

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