Semi smashes sign, snarls traffic

By Patty Hastings, Columbian breaking news reporter

Published:

Updated: January 18, 2013, 7:43 PM

 

A pair of big-truck accidents knocked out a sign bridge and snarled southbound traffic on Interstate 5 during Friday evening’s rush-hour commute.

Around 4:50 p.m., the driver of a tractor-trailer lost consciousness while traveling south in the right lane about two miles south of Woodland, said Washington State Patrol Trooper Will Finn.

The truck hit a post holding up a sign bridge and dragged the structure along the freeway before it flew up and went through the windshield of another tractor-trailer driving in the center lane behind the first big rig.

The wreckage of the sign bridge narrowly missed the truck’s driver, said Battalion Chief Tim Dawdy, with Clark County Fire & Rescue.

The first tractor-trailer then crashed through a section of guardrail and went over an embankment near the East Fork of the Lewis River. The Woodland Fire Department and Clark County Fire & Rescue were dispatched to the crash.

Firefighters removed the driver from the truck, and he was transported to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. After regaining consciousness, the man said he didn’t know why he had blacked out. He was having difficulty breathing and potentially suffered a broken rib, Finn said.

The second tractor-trailer drove with the sign bridge for quarter of a mile before it could pull over to the side of the road. The driver suffered facial injuries and a possible broken arm and was taken to a hospital.

The drivers’ names were not available Friday.

A tow truck crane lifted the sign bridge off the big rig.

Traffic was clogged as the center and right lanes were closed until about 7:30 p.m. At its peak, traffic was backed up eight miles from the bridge to Milepost 26, said Abbi Russell of the Washington Department of Transportation.

WSDOT crews helped with traffic control and set up reflective barrels to warn drivers of the missing guardrail.

The sign bridge was damaged beyond repair and will need to be replaced, along with the guardrail, Russell said.

Patty Hastings: 360-735-4513; http://www.twitter.com/col_cops; patty.hastings@columbian.com.