A driver traveling on the Dr. Fine Bridge over the Smith River on Highway 101 was killedTuesday morning when he drifted across the double line and collidedhead-on with a 70,000-pound 18-wheeler.
Jaime M. Torres, 39, of Crescent City, was traveling northbound on thebridge, which is about 9 miles north of Crescent City, shortly before 11 a.m. when, for unknown reasons, he crossed the double line into the 18-wheeler's path, according to California Highway Patrol. The truck driver walked away uninjured. An investigation of the crash is ongoing.
Officer Deina Hernandez of CHP said that upon collision, the truckdriver, who was carrying a full load of wood chips from Coos Bay, Ore., lost control of his vehicle and traveled 60 feet down the western embankment.
"As (the truck) was going down the embankment it overturned," Hernandez said.
Arrangements have been made to retrieve the truck, and the highwaywill remain open during that process, Hernandez said. The bridge was closed for nearly three hours Tuesday while investigators processed the scene and debris was cleared. During that time traffic was rerouted via Highways 199 and 197.
The Mazda, which sustained severe front-end damage, hit the easternguardrail on the bridge and ended up facing west in the northbound lane. Torres died upon impact, Hernandez said. According to Sheriff Dean Wilson, an autopsy will determine if perhaps a medical issue caused him to cross into the opposite lane or if he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Wier's Mortuary, Fort Dick Fire, Smith River Fire, California Highway Patrol, DelNorte County Sheriff's Office, Caltrans and Del Norte Ambulance responded to the scene.
Construction work planned for the Dr. Fine Bridge Tuesday was unaffectedbythe accident because crews were working underneath the bridge at the time of the accident, Hernandez said. Crews are conducting geotechnical drilling on the river's bedrock for a $50 million bridge replacement expected to break ground as early as this winter.
Any witnesses of the accident should contact CHP at 707-464-3117.
Reach Aaron West at firstname.lastname@example.org.