Milk tanker crashes over embankment on Clear Lake’s north shore

A milk tanker crashed over the side of a steep embankment on the north shore of Clear Lake in Lake County on Sunday morning, landing partially in the lake and spilling some of its load into the water, according to authorities.

The incident occurred just before 9 a.m. when the westbound semi crossed the oncoming lane and went over the opposite shoulder on a curve of Highway 20 near Kono Tayee Point, across from Buckingham, according to emergency personnel.

The big rig then plunged over the embankment, with the cab landing partially in the water, though it was mostly caught by trees at the waterline, emergency officials said.

It was unclear why the driver lost control, CHP Sgt. Josh Dye said.

The cliff was “about 40 feet down and steep,” and both cab and tanker were banged up and torn apart as they rolled, Dye said. The cab also separated from the rig, he said.

The driver had to be cut from the wreckage and was flown from the crash site between Lucerne and Clearlake Oaks for treatment of what appeared to be moderate injuries at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, Northshore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Doyle Head said.

Dye identified the driver as Zachary Potts. Potts’ age and hometown were not available, though Dye said he was hauling milk from the Central Valley.

He said the tanker landed on its side and spilled about 3,000 gallons of milk that flowed from the top of the tank, some onto the road and most into the lake.

Fire crews set out booms to try to contain the spillage, but much of it sank, Dye said.

The diesel fuel tank also ruptured in the crash, though little fuel escaped, he said.

Appropriate resource agencies were notified to address habitat contamination concerns, including California Fish and Wildlife and Environmental Health, Dye and Head said.

The wreckage remained at the site all day, though it was mostly out of the road, so the CHP was able to route traffic around it, Head said.

It was expected to be evening, at least, before the last of the semi could be hauled away because of its condition and the steepness of the embankment, Dye said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.

Mary Callahan

Environment and Climate Change, The Press Democrat

I am in awe of the breathtaking nature here in Sonoma County and am so grateful to live in this spectacular region we call home. I am amazed, too, by the expertise in our community and by the commitment to protecting the land, its waterways, its wildlife and its residents. My goal is to improve understanding of the issues, to find hope and to help all of us navigate the future of our environment. 

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