Death toll, vehicle count rise in California truck pileup

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Monday, October 15, 2007

So far, three people (including a baby) have been killed, and at least ten others were injured when two semi trucks collided in a tunnel on Interstate 5 (Newhall Pass) between Los Angeles and Santa Clarita California, United States in the late evening of October 12, setting off a chain reaction pileup that involved between 28 and 30 semi trucks and one passenger car. The wreck caused a massive fire that burned for over six hours. It was previously believed that only 13 semi trucks were involved.

"The fire burned in a very intense state for approximately four hours and basically consumed everything that was burnable," said John Tripp the Fire Chief for L.A. county.

As a result of the crash, the Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger issued a declaration of a state of emergency for Los Angeles County.

The debris has been removed and officials say that a full inspection will have to be done on the tunnel before it can be used again because the structure of the tunnel has been compromised. The tunnel passed inspection in June of 2006.

"The walls of the tunnel are fairly heavily damaged. None of the rebar appears to be melted, damaged at this point in time. But it's completely separated from the walls in a number of areas, so we lose vertical support when that happens," said California Department of Transportation official, Doug Failing.

Tripp added that more bodies could be buried in the wreckage, saying "...we're going to have to do a very methodical search. There could be unfortunately more people that were not able to escape." So far authorities have yet to identify the three people who were killed.

A full investigation is being conducted into what caused the crash.

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