When Daniel Zamora was turning his big-rig logging truck in the Santa Rosa Costco parking lot Wednesday afternoon and heard the unmistakable sound of his trailer breaking, followed by the sickening crunch of metal and glass, he feared the worst.
When he got out and saw his 25-ton load of logs had fallen on and crushed a car and that there were people inside it, including a little girl, his heart completely sank.
“I jumped out and saw the little girl and I thought of my own young daughter,” said the 25-year-old father of two from Porterville, who stopped at Costco to pick up supplies on his way to a mill in Cloverdale. “I thought there was no way they were going to be OK. No way.”
But the three people inside the green Honda — a mother and her two children, including a 2-year-old girl — not only survived, they suffered only minor injuries in the frightening accident, according to Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Mike Lazzarini.
Police did not identify the three family members, who were taken to a nearby hospital. They were waiting in the parked car while the father of the family was shopping at Best Buy. He was walking back from the store at the time of the accident and saw the whole thing, Lazzarini said.
Witnesses described the accident as happening in slow motion. One woman, who declined to be identified, said she watched from about 150 feet away as she was leaving Costco with her young son and husband, and that it made her sick to her stomach.
Zamora said he was turning the rig to the right as he was leaving the parking lot when his trailer failed, dumping the logs onto the car, which was parked by itself in a spot that was near the back of the Costco and the front entrance of the Best Buy.
The three escaped serious injury or death because the mother was sitting in the back seat with the toddler and her 13-year-old daughter was in the front passenger seat. The brunt of the impact struck the driver’s side of the car, setting off the airbag on that side.
“It was fortunate where they were sitting,” Lazzarini said.
Zamora, who has been driving logging trucks for five years, said the nylon straps around his logs snapped under the weight of the logs, almost certainly saving lives. Often when logging truck trailers roll over, the whole rig is brought down.
Had that happened, he said, the car almost certainly would have been crushed under the combined weight of nearly 80,000 pounds of the truck and the logs.
“Thank God it broke and didn’t flip the truck,” he said.
Still, he was stunned that no one was badly injured.
“I don’t see how nothing happened to them,” he said, adding he would have felt worse if the accident happened because of a mistake he had made. “There was nothing I could have done. I guess you could say it was lucky.”
Staff Writer Julie Johnson contributed to this report. You can reach Staff Writer Elizabeth M. Cosin at 521-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.