LIVERMORE -- A chain-reaction crash that ended with a tractor-trailer running into a pickup and dumping 20 tons of tropical fruit onto the Altamont Pass early Monday did not injure anyone but wreaked havoc with the morning commute, the California Highway Patrol said.
The approximately 40,000 pounds of plantains, a fruit similar to bananas, and jackfruit, another tropical fruit similar to melons, spilled onto the median and parts of westbound Interstate 580 just west of the West Greenville Road offramp after the 2:45 a.m. crash, CHP Officer Steve Creel said.
The big rig ran into the back of the pickup, which had stalled in the far right lane of the freeway and lost its lights after colliding with a dump truck a few minutes earlier, Creel said. The dump truck driver also was not injured.
"The only reason the truck driver is alive is because he got out of the car and got away from it," Creel said.
That driver left the truck on the freeway and moved to the shoulder, all the while trying to shine a flashlight on the scene, Creel said. But the big rig driver never saw the truck in the darkness, slammed into the back of it, skidded left and turned onto its left side, he said.
Initially, three lanes were closed. By the time the morning commute got rolling around 6 a.m., the two left lanes on the four-lane freeway were closed. Cleanup crews sent boxes of the fruit down chutes to waiting trucks on the eastbound onramp and median, where they were stacked on top of one another.
As many as three lanes were closed during the cleanup process, which kept at least one lane closed until 9:57 a.m. The result was a traffic jam that clogged the Altamont Pass back onto I-205 and into Tracy for much of the early commute.
Contact Rick Hurd at 925-945-4789 and follow him at Twitter.com/3rderh.