A freeway crash stemming from the pursuit of an alleged reckless driver in Chiriaco Summit Thursday led to a traffic backup that precipitated a second fiery crash that injured at least five people and set two semi trucks ablaze.
California Highway Patrol officers say they saw a woman driving recklessly through a construction zone on Interstate 10, east of Washington Street, at 5:45 a.m., triggering a pursuit that stretched across the desert east of the Coachella Valley.
Just after 6 a.m., the unidentified woman crashed her Nissan sedan into a center median guardrail east of Red Cloud Mine Road, and a CHP unit trailing her also crashed into the guardrail as it swerved to avoid the Nissan, according to CHP Officer Ramon Perez.
The woman allegedly barricaded herself in her car on the freeway, causing a traffic buildup that stretched more than a mile west of the crash scene. She was detained at 6:49 a.m., and taken to a hospital for precautionary reasons, prior to being booked into the Riverside County jail in Indio, Perez said. The two CHP officers in the crashed patrol unit were also taken to a hospital for complaints of pain.
As traffic grew behind the scene of the standoff, Perez said a big-rig driver “failed to see the stopped traffic” in front of him and crashed into two other big rigs and a sedan, leaving two of the trucks engulfed in flames.
Two of the big-rig drivers were airlifted to hospitals with major injuries, while the sedan driver and a passenger in one of the trucks were hospitalized with moderate injuries, Perez said. The Riverside County Fire Department also reported a fifth person was hospitalized with minor injuries.
Eastbound traffic lanes were completely blocked until 10 a.m., with traffic backing up for about eight miles as a result. One lane was reopened just before 10 a.m., but the CHP was still reporting heavy traffic in the area as of midday.