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Big-Rig Crash Blocks Ortega Highway For Nearly Six Hours

The crash caused significant delays for motorists attempting to head eastbound during rush-hour traffic.

UPDATED AT 9:41 p.m.: An overturned big rig that shut down Ortega Highway for nearly six hours has been uprighted and tow operators have cleared the wreckage from the roadway.

The crash was reported at approximately 4 p.m. Monday, just east of The Lookout Roadhouse.

No injuries were reported as a result of the crash, but the tractor and its trailers -- which were loaded with sand -- overturned in the eastbound lane.

Tow trucks had attempted to upright the wreckage throughout the evening without success. Finally, at approximately 8:30 p.m., the tractor trailer was placed back on its wheels, but it took more than an hour before the big rig could be moved and the road reopened.

The state route was closed intermittently Monday as a result of the crash. Eastbound traffic was allowed to pass at times, but westbound traffic was closed at Grand Avenue shortly after the incident.

The crash caused significant delays for motorists attempting to head eastbound during rush-hour traffic, according to CHP officer Brian Keene. At times, eastbound traffic was backed up into Orange County.

According to Keene, the big-rig driver was not feeling well and crashed during a "cough attack." Keene reported the driver was traveling eastbound at approximately 20 to 30 mph when he began coughing. His rear trailer tipped and he struck the side of the mountain, Keene said.

Brandon Dunn, 22, was behind the wheel of the truck and confirmed, "I was choking real bad. I looked back and I saw my second trailer starting to tip. There was nothing I could do."

Dunn, who works for CTI, said he was hauling approximately 80 tons of sand from San Juan Capistrano to San Bernardino.

Drugs and alcohol do not appear to be factors in the crash.

"It was an accident," Keene said. --Daniel Lane contributed to this report.

Kiera March 27, 2012 at 12:28 PM
I was stuck in this traffic. I wish there was a better way to get the news to the people sitting on the highway. We were stuck on Ortega w/no information for over an hour.
julian March 27, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Maybe I'm being insensitive, but these trucks should be banned from using this small but essential highway. I only say this because these trucks often slow down traffic creating a huge back log of cars or in this case stop traffic completely.
"G" March 27, 2012 at 01:58 PM
OK, OK, I can't say I was checking my Cell phone, hum, OH Yeah, I go it, coughing, yeah, that's the ticket, I was choking and starting coughing and....... = )
Heidi Golgart-Hastings Ward March 27, 2012 at 02:05 PM
We drive Ortega twice a day everyday and I always pray that no one get hurt. We barely missed this accident yesterday. The truck was in in front of us and then pulled over at the candy store to let the line of traffic pass and then rolled shortly there after. I have always felt that big trucks should not be allowed to drive on Ortega.
BLUESGUITAR777 March 27, 2012 at 02:36 PM
There are plenty of methods available, including smartphone apps, radio, Internet and GPS which all give real time traffic updates to you in your car. Get with the times. :)
Heidi Golgart-Hastings Ward March 27, 2012 at 02:40 PM
Unfortunately once you get on the highway and if an accident to is occur, in almost all cases you would not be able to turn around and take another route. We drive Ortega everyday twice a day and always check traffic before we get on the highway, but that doesn't help once you are already driving through the canyon and someone up ahead decides to text, email or fall asleep.
Pickles March 27, 2012 at 02:59 PM
They need to ban big rigs from driving the ortegas
Anon March 27, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I think they should be allowed to use the highway but only during certain hours. I drove this hwy to work for a couple of years. I wouldnt wish it on anyone.
Annamarie March 27, 2012 at 04:08 PM
Unfortunately just like other narrow, curvy, hilly highways, someone , or a group of innocent people will probably have to be killed before they ban the trucks, thats just the way it always works, by the way once on ortega, you may not always be able to find out whats happening, do to signal loss
BLUESGUITAR777 March 27, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Heidi, the accident occurred just after 4pm. Most people get off work at 5pm. You can check your route before entering Ortega Hwy. Also, the original commenter indicated they didn't know what was going on and just wanted to be informed. My aforementioned methods will help remedy that curiosity. And you're not the only one who commutes Ortega Mon-Fri...

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