SF Bay Bridge S-curve now Dead Man's Curve
- From: lyon_wonder <lyon_wonder@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Mon, 09 Nov 2009 16:32:04 -0600
The S-curve that Caltrans installed leading to the eastern-Bay Bridge
span toward Oakland is now officially a "Dead Man's Curve".
Driver dies as truck plunges off S-curve
Henry K. Lee,Justin Berton, Chronicle Staff Writers
Monday, November 9, 2009
A truck driver died early today after losing control on the Bay Bridge
S-curve and plummeting in his big rig 200 feet to Yerba Buena Island,
the most serious crash since the new detour was installed, the
California Highway Patrol said.
The crash happened about 3:30 a.m. as the big rig, loaded with pears,
was traveling on the westbound upper deck at about 50 mph - 1o mph
over the speed limit in that zone - said CHP Sgt. Trent Cross.
"The commercial vehicle was traveling at high speed when the driver
attempted to negotiate the turn," Cross said. "He went off the side of
the Bay Bridge and dropped approximately 200 feet down."
The truck plunged over the northern side of the span and onto Yerba
Buena Island, landing on its wheels. Security guards on the island who
heard the crash and were first on the scene said it was clear that the
driver, a 56-year-old Hayward man whose name was not immediately
released, had died instantly.
The driver was an independent operator who bought the big rig several
months ago from California Tank Lines Inc. of Stockton, authorities
Thirty to 40 gallons of diesel fuel spilled when the big rig landed.
No fuel reached the bay, Cross said.
CHP investigators were trying to determine whether the truck's load of
pears had shifted as the big rig reached the S-curve, something that
could have helped propel the truck over the side of the span.
Caltrans inspected the bridge where the truck went over the side and
reopened the far-right lane to traffic at 7:45 a.m.
CHP Officer Tony Tam said the driver had picked up his load of pears
in a trailer from Orient Overseas Container Line in San Ramon. Tam did
not know the destination for the load.
About 15 CHP investigators were collecting evidence at Yerba Buena
Island for a probe that is expected to take weeks. Overhead, a
mattress, apparently from the truck's cab, could be seen balancing on
the bridge railing.
There have been more than 42 accidents in the curved area since it
opened Sept. 8 as part of the eastern span replacement project, but
this morning's crash was the first in which someone died, authorities
Cross said CHP officials believe the S-curve is safe. "We don't
believe it's a design flaw," he said. "There's nothing tricky or
complicated about the curve. I can stand here with confidence and say
that if you drive the posted speed limit, you will make it through the
curve safely, just as thousands of drivers do every day."
Cross said there was no video from security or traffic cameras on the
bridge that captured the crash.
On Oct. 14, a Safeway big rig truck flopped across four lanes when it
hit the S-curve, tying up westbound truck for hours. The driver was
unfamiliar with the new turn and was going too fast, the CHP said.
The speed limit on the S-curve is 40 mph, a decrease from the 50 mph
on the rest of the span, and drivers have had difficulty negotiating
the sudden curve.
The sharp increase in accidents and drivers' complaints led Caltrans
and the CHP to install new signs and flashing lights. The CHP is
planning to put in radar units, the electronic boards that flash the
speed of an approaching car, but exactly when they will do so is not
known. Last week, Caltrans installed reflectors through the area to
catch the attention of drivers at night, the CHP said.
The CHP said the majority of the S-curve crashes have been
fender-benders. Most occurred in the first two weeks after the S-curve
opened, and as drivers have become more familiar with terrain, the
number of incidents has decreased, authorities said.
"From Day One since we had this S-curve open, we've tried to instill
in the motoring public that you really have to watch your speed in
this area," Cross said. "Speed has always been a factor in every
traffic collision that has occurred in this S-curve."
Cross said this morning's accident, like many others, was preventable
and is "another example of poor judgment in which someone lost their
life. This didn't have to happen."
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