Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Foggy road at World Ag Expo causes crashes, finds heroes

When our staff heard yesterday about a foggy 50-car pile-up north of Tulare, Calif. during the first day of the World Ag Expo, our first concern was whether our gang of staff traveling to WAE that morning were all safe.

They would have all been taking that same route, near Kingsburg, Calif., around that same time, prior to 9 a.m. Fortunately, we were relieved to hear they were all okay, although our photographer Mark Rozin did go past some vehicles on the side of the road that might have been the beginning of the mess.

According to an Associated Press story, “The chain-reaction accident Tuesday morning shut down a portion of Highway 99’s southbound lanes and scattered broken glass and mangled cars along a three-mile stretch in Kingsburg. Visibility was just 50 feet when CHP officers got to the scene.”

Later, police revised their estimate of vehicles, saying there were actually 15 — not 50 — vehicles involved, and this included three semi-trailers.

The Fresno Bee said two people were critically injured among the dozen victims from the series of crashes.

The Bee also reported yesterday that one of the vehicles involved included a busload of Canadians who were heading down to the World Ag Expo. It would be easily to assume several other people involved in the accident may also have been bound for the show.

Dense fog is nothing new to that area. There are signs warning to test distances that can be seen in fog, and anyone who has participated in an Expo or two knows to bundle warmly for those damp, dull mornings.

Unfortunately, on Highway 99, everyone always seems to be in a hurry no matter what the weather or road conditions.

A story in today’s Fresno Bee described the scene. “Truck driver Victor Dubinetskiy, who drives between Sacramento and Tulare three or four times a week, said he was stunned by how fast the thick blanket of fog dropped in front of him. He said good Samaritans may have prevented even more crashes. Dubinetskiy, 29, said several men ran along the side of the road, waving their arms at him and other approaching motorists and shouting at them to slow down.”

The Bee talked to Mike Fitzgerald, service manager at Oxbo International, a farm-equipment dealer and service shop near the freeway, who was one of the people who was trying to wave people to slow down.

“I was outside walking to another building when I heard a skid and then an impact, then a second skid and an impact, then I heard a truck crash,” Fitzgerald told the Bee, “and then after that you just continued to hear the crashes.”

The Bee added, “Fitzgerald said he and one of his employees hopped the fence and onto the freeway. While the other worker ran to help one driver who was hurt, Fitzgerald ran north along the edge of the freeway for about 200 yards, waving his jacket over his head to warn oncoming drivers of the danger ahead.

“All I could think of was trying to slow them down,” he said to the Bee. “I haven't run that hard in years.”

Talk about true heroes. How many people would run in the middle of a dangerous, foggy California highway during rush hour and put their lives on the line to save the lives of others?

Our baseball caps/cowboy hats are gratefully off to honor Fitzgerald and his employee, and are thankful nothing happened to them.

(For people who want to see what the World Ag Expo looked like in the fog, go to and click on the tile on the homepage that links you to see photos from the Expo.)

1 comment:

threecollie said...

I am so glad you are all okay. This sure has been a winter for bad driving conditions!

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