Kanan crash kills driver, injures passenger

0
236

Pacific Coast Highway was blocked for hours last week and commuters clogged Point Dume side streets.

By Max Taves / Special to the Times

A driver of a 10-wheeled truck carrying 8,200 pounds of roof tiles was killed after losing control of the vehicle and crashing into the mountainside at at the intersection of Kanan-Dume Road and Pacific Coast Highway last Thursday afternoon. The driver died upon impact, and a passenger survived the crash with a concussion.

Both the driver, Gregorio Guardado, and the passenger, Roberto Martinez, worked for Simi Valley Roofing Supply. Guardado was 22 years old and began working for the roofing supply when he turned 18.

According to the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, the truck was illegally traveling on the steep, mountainous road. Multiple signs along Kanan-Dume warn drivers of trucks with more than two axels or heavier than 8,000 pounds not to travel the road. It is unknown why the driver ignored the restrictions.

Larry Oler, manager of the company, said his company lets drivers chart their own paths to delivery sites. In the wake of this accident, Oler said he and staff are rethinking this policy.

Drivers at the company attended a routine safety workshop last Friday and the company’s four trucks underwent an extensive safety check the same day, Oler said.

Commuters traveling on Pacific Coast Highway and Kanan-Dume Road faced hours of delays on Thursday around 2 p.m. The highway was closed at Kanan immediately following the accident and commuters clogged the small, residential side streets of Point Dume. It took three and a half hours for the coroner to arrive at the scene of the accident and the Sheriff’s Department blocked the road until his arrival. Traffic returned to normal speeds after the coroner’s arrival.

The accident occurred at the same site where four people were killed in three separate runaway-vehicle accidents in 1987. Two of the victims were broad-sided by a truck loaded with bricks that had lost its brakes and plowed through a red light.

The series of collisions caused the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to close the road from the southernmost tunnel to Cavalleri Drive for several months, until a $500,000 runaway vehicle median was completed in late 1987.

Signs direct runaway vehicles to the 1,000-foot-long gravel trench that is intended to bring out-of-control trucks to a stop. Construction of the median ramp was opposed by some local business owners, who were unhappy that it blocked turns to and from their property.

It is unknown why the driver of the fatal crash last Thursday did not use the emergency median. According to the Sheriff’s Department, Guardado had a valid license and no previous history of accidents. The truck he was driving was made in 2000 and had no known safety problems.

The California Highway Patrol and the Sheriff’s Department share jurisdiction over Kanan-Dume Road. An investigator at the crash site, Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Curry, said he does not think that law enforcement could have done more to prevent the accident.

“Really all we can do is have a presence and give tickets,” Curry said.

A group of longtime Malibu residents gathered at the crash site and spoke mournfully of the road’s high human toll. Margaret Herron lives within earshot of the crash site and has seen 11 fatal crashes take place there including three deaths in one month. When she drives past Kanan-Dume Road, she said she has made a habit out of looking up the road first. She painfully recalls hearing the truck’s impact Thursday.

“The sound is the same every time, that gut-wrenching sound of crashing steel,” Herron said.

The CHP is currently conducting an investigation to identify the cause of the accident. The Sheriff’s Department will interview the passenger later this week.

Hans Laetz contributed to this story.