Truck driver killed at Kanan, PCH

The driver of a truck hauling building materials was killed last Thursday at Kanan Road and Pacific Coast Highway when his brakes apparently failed, plunging the truck head-on across the highway and into the hillside.

The driver, William Gomez, 37, of Oxnard was trapped in the cab, which collapsed from the impact. The flatbed truck was loaded with huge steel containers of sand and cement and was towing a forklift. On impact, the containers were hurled forward, smashing the cab from the rear, and the forklift towbar was jammed under the truck bed.

Sheriff’s deputies said Gomez had a valid commercial license for larger trucks and should have tested his brakes at the point marked about one mile north of PCH, and that signs warn drivers of the steep grade and the location of the escape ramp. Deputies at the scene said they couldn’t understand why he had not used the escape median, which would have stopped the truck before the intersection.

“As luck would have it, the light was green for his direction and traffic on PCH was stopped,” said Det. Robert Evans of the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station.

Traffic on Kanan Road is restricted to vehicles over 8,000 pounds and more than two axles. The forklift alone weighed 10,658 pounds, and deputies said the brakes may not have been adequate for the weight of the load. Witnesses said the driver appeared to be trying to get the vehicle under control and that they thought they heard the noise of air brakes. Deputies said they saw no skid marks on the pavement but that the forklift could have lifted the truck’s rear tires off the pavement.

The escape ramp is lined with sand and gravel about 30 feet deep and has sensors that automatically change the signal light to stop traffic on PCH when a truck enters.

Truck inspectors from California Highway Patrol were called in to try to determine if the brakes or something else on the truck malfunctioned. “The hard part is there’s so much damage it’s hard to see what happened to the truck — if the damage occurred as a result of the accident or before,” Evans said.

Traffic was stopped from about 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then one lane reopened while the investigation continued and two tow trucks attempted to clear the wreckage.

The truck was towed to the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station where the driver was removed from the cab, deputies said Tuesday. “The deceased had massive head and facial injuries and seemed to have chest and abdominal injuries also,” Sgt. Kevin Mauch said. “The coroner will do a full post mortem to determine if he had a medical condition that was responsible, and also a toxicology test to see if he was driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a prescription medication.”

CHP investigators are planning to do another inspection of the truck at the police impound lot in San Fernando.

Deputies said they had spoken briefly with the driver’s employer at the scene and planned to talk to him again about the weight of the load and history of the driver with that equipment. It is still unknown whether the driver was instructed to take Kanan instead of Malibu Canyon Road. “We don’t know, but in California, the driver is responsible for those decisions,” Mauch said.

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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