A fiery crash between two semi-trucks on Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 15, closed Interstate 5's southbound lanes for more than 12 hours.
Oregon State Police said the crash occurred when a southbound Freightliner truck and trailer driven by 51-year old Rex Hollopeter of Salem collided with a parked Volvo truck and trailer that had pulled to the shoulder near milepost 274. The driver of the Volvo, Gagandeep Singh, 24, of California, saw smoke coming from under his truck and pulled to the side of the road to investigate. Singh and his passenger, Baljit Singh, 38, also of California, discovered the truck was on fire. The two were outside of the vehicle when Hollopeter's truck collided with the Volvo. The two trucks caught fire and blocked the highway.
Hollopeter was taken by air ambulance to Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland for treatment of serious injuries. Both Gagandeep Singh and Baljit Singh were not injured.
The two trucks were destroyed in the blaze, which lasted for several hours. Ash from the fire spread for miles.
I-5 southbound was closed through the evening as emergency crews fought the blaze, removed the vehicles from the road and repaired the damage to the highway.
At 10:49 p.m., Oregon's Department of Transportation reported that crews were unloading lumber from one of the trucks before towing it from the crash site. ODOT officials said the road sustained significant damage from the fire and diesel that spilled from the trucks.
By 5:06 a.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16, ODOT reopened two highway lanes. The right lane sustained the most damage from the fire and likely wiould remain closed indefinitely until it could be repaved. Wet weather this week could delay the repairs.
Hazmat teams also planned to check the soil near the highway to determine if the spilled fuel caused environmental damage.
Crews from Woodburn Fire and Medics, the Aurora Fire Department, the Hubbard Fire Department, Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, the Salem Police Department and the Woodburn Police Department assisted in the incident.
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