Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Traffic was jammed midday Thursday on the Ortega (74) Highway in both directions between San Juan Capistrano and Lake Elsinore to enable Caltrans crews to remove a truck involved in a grisly fatal crash from a gully alongside the two- lane corridor.

The shutdown was expected to last from about noon to 2 p.m.

“The recovery shouldn’t take too long, maybe a couple of hours,” California Highway Patrol Officer Chaz Tyler told City News Service. “The vehicle is on its wheels, and the embankment is not that deep. Maybe 50 feet.”

The closure area extends from Antonio Parkway on the Orange County side of the highway to Grand Avenue in Riverside County, Tyler said. He said motorists trying to reach their residences in the hills above Lake Elsinore will be permitted to drive on the highway to reach side roads.

The wreckage is just under five miles east of Interstate 5, in the area of San Juan Creek, on the OC side.

According to the CHP, the crash happened about 4:35 p.m. Wednesday. A compact sedan and a trash truck collided, sending both vehicles off the highway.

The driver of the sedan, 69-year-old Mike Madigan of Lake Forest, was killed. It took workers some time to extricate his body from the vehicle as the force of the collision caused severe damage to the car. The truck crew was seriously injured.

The CHP completely closed the Ortega an hour after the wreck, and it remained shut down for about three hours, re-opening well ahead of the morning commute, according to reports from the scene.

“Caltrans assures the public that we will open state Route 74 as soon as possible today and requests the public’s patience during this temporary closure,” said agency spokeswoman Jocelyn Whitfield.

Motorists have endured prior full shutdowns on the Ortega, the most recent one in January, when rain-damaged road surface prompted a major repair job that took about three weeks, during which time no traffic was allowed to transit the 28-mile corridor.

—City News Service

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