Two incidents on Highway 58 near Tehachapi caused trouble for Thursday morning commuters.
The most serious of the two occurred just before the Hwy. 58 westbound Keene on-ramp around 4:45 a.m. According to freelance photographer Nick Smirnoff, who was on the scene, the accident involved a pick-up and semi hauling dry cement. The driver of the semi reportedly sustained minor injuries and was taken to Kern Medical Center by ground ambulance.
The pick-up truck driver, whose identity is unconfirmed, was flown by Mercy Air 14 to Kern Medical Center with life-threatening injuries. Westbound traffic continues to be diverted via the Keene exit on and off ramps. Officials do not have an estimate on when the freeway may be re-opened.
Near Monolith, Hwy. 58 eastbound traffic continues to trickle through the left lane as workers continue to clear the remnants of a burned tractor trailer.
The husband-wife driver team of the truck noticed smoke and flames coming from the trailer as they traveled to North Carolina from Salinas, Calif., in the early Thursday morning hours. The driver pulled over onto the shoulder and disengaged the truck from the trailer before the trailer was fully engulfed in flames.
The driver team said they had repairs done on the trailer brake wiring before leaving Salinas. The truck was carrying lettuce and strawberries. On-site California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Nielson estimated the right lane would re-open around 10 a.m.
Station 11 fire crews from Keene responded to the call that came in just before 4 a.m., leaving the station dry. When the second accident occurred at Keene about 45 minutes later, the Keene fire station had only a standby helicopter crew and air operations head Heidi Dinkler available to respond. Dinkler was waiting at the station for transportation to Mojave for a meeting at the time, but upon getting the call, she and the standby crew rushed to the scene and directed traffic until the California Highway Patrol arrived and fire crews could be reassigned from the lettuce truck fire.
The driver of the pick-up truck was pinned by the truck's dashboard for roughly 90 minutes before being rescued.
Battalion 1 Chief Brent Moon said this was the longest, toughest extraction the fire crew had done in a long time.
NICK SMIRNOFF contributed to this report.