A dump truck carrying tons of fire debris heading down Fountaingrove Parkway Monday morning barreled through the Mendocino Avenue intersection and slammed into multiple vehicles, injuring six people, catching several cars on fire and sending a massive plume of dark smoke over the northern end of the city.
Fire officials Monday said the injured included two with major injuries. A third suffered moderate injuries and three others minor injuries in the 9:25 a.m. crash.
“He was coming down the hill toward Mendocino and at the intersection he lost control of his truck and ended up colliding with a total of nine other vehicles,” Santa Rosa police Lt. Rick Kohut said.
The scene was a mass of tangled vehicles, which quickly caught fire from spilled fuel. As the black smoke rose high above the area, a series of explosions caused by heat popping the tires of the burning vehicles added to the chaos.
People rushed to help, pulling at least three people out of their cars, including one woman from a burning minivan.
Firefighters called to the parkway at Mendocino Avenue found a widespread scene of destruction cross 250 feet with three areas of burning cars. The fire incinerated the dump truck, three vans and two pickups, said Santa Rosa Fire Battalion Chief Mark Basque. The hulk of the westbound dump truck stopped in eastbound lanes of the Mendocino Avenue overcrossing of Highway 101.
“I started thinking about the dump trucks that have been coming down Fountaingrove and sure enough, we get there and it’s a dump truck,” said Corey Larson, acting fire captain for Rincon Valley who also responded. “There are so many and they’re coming down with a lot of heavy loads.”
In the initial aftermath, three people helped from the wreckage were treated by paramedics on a traffic island in the intersection. Firefighters broke into multiple teams: One group checked the vehicles for people still inside, another cut free two people trapped inside a crushed pickup, and others sprayed water and retardant on the flames.
Fire officials said the two people with major injuries were taken to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital; one person with moderate injuries and one with minor injuries were taken to Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital; and two people with minor injuries to Kaiser Permanente Santa Rosa Medical Center.
Fire officials said burning gasoline and diesel fuel caused the fire to spread quickly. Special foam was used to control the flames and city public works staff prevented fuel from getting into nearby creeks and the sewer system, fire officials said.
The plumes of black smoke triggered fearful memories of October’s firestorms that scorched entire neighborhoods east, west and north of the intersection at Mendocino Avenue and Fountaingrove Parkway. At the Kaiser medical center, some staff gasped at the billowing smoke and fire.
“Everybody was on edge,” said one Kaiser employee who would not give her name because she was not authorized to speak for the hospital. “My heart just about stopped and I thought, ‘not again.’”
The crash closed the major Santa Rosa intersection for almost six hours. The nearby Highway 101 overcrossing, which connects Mendocino and Cleveland avenues, reopened its westbound lanes late Monday afternoon and the eastbound lanes reopened Monday night.
A Windsor man and his 8-year-old son were stopped in traffic at the intersection when the truck came careening down the hill.