The Milpas Street offramp was closed until noon yesterday after a tractor-trailer rig hauling a shipment of zucchini lost control and squashed several palm trees, roasting the truck’s load of vegetables.
At approximately 3:10 a.m. Tuesday, the big-rig was traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 101 when the truck drifted out of the traffic lane onto the offramp, then jackknifed and overturned onto its side. The truck caught fire and became fully engulfed in flames, which quickly spread to trees and brush near the exit, igniting a small fire.
The driver and sole occupant of the truck, 27-year-old Gabriel Lopez of Santa Paula, was taken to the Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital in an ambulance; he was complaining of pain, according to California Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Don Clotworthy.
CHP is currently investigating the incident, and Clotworthy said he suspects the man – who does not have driver license – fell asleep at the wheel. Clotworthy said alcohol was not involved in the incident.
The Santa Barbara City Fire Department responded to the scene, eventually extinguishing both the truck and brush fires. Clotworthy said the big-rig and its load of zucchini were completely destroyed in the blaze.
Both southbound lanes of the highway were closed for approximately two hours, and traffic was rerouted to the Garden Street and Cabrillo Boulevard exits, Clotworthy said.
The Milpas offramp remained closed until 12:50 p.m. yesterday to allow for vehicle removal and cleanup, Clotworthy said.