By Mary O’KEEFE
“It sounded like an explosion.”
“You could see the big ball of [light] arc at the power pole.”
Those were some of the comments from witnesses of the dump truck that came barreling down Briggs Avenue and landed side down in Pickens Canyon Park on Tuesday morning.
Truck driver Wilbur Rivas, 24, from Reseda was traveling southbound on Briggs Avenue when he apparently lost his brakes.
“I lost my brakes at the four-way stop sign [at Briggs and Mountain avenues],” Rivas said.
He continued down Briggs Avenue, picking up speed as he headed for Foothill Boulevard.
“I knew the traffic on Foothill Boulevard,” he added.
La Crescenta Motel manager O.J. Rodriguez and David Escher witnessed the accident.
They described Rivas’ truck coming down Briggs and veering to the left just north of Foothill Boulevard.
“There were six cars lined up on Briggs. [Rivas] veered to the left and hit the electric pole,” Escher said.
“The second it hit the pole it sounded like a bomb went off,” Rodriguez said.
Escher added the truck went up onto the east curb that runs along the park just missing a green van that was parked on the street. The truck continued threading itself between trees, then tipping onto its side and sliding in the dirt along the fence between the wash and the dirt side. It finally came to rest at the wash’s overpass.
“The driver got out of the cab of the truck really fast. He was very shaky and had this blank look on his face,” Rodriguez said.
A good Samaritan ran over to him and helped him away from the truck. She made him sit down and asked if he was all right.
“I wasn’t hurt,” Rivas said.
After seeing the mangled top of the truck’s cab, he added he was shocked that he hadn’t been injured.
The truck had knocked down a Southern California Edison utility pole, which in turn downed lines from other poles knocking out power to over 2,000 customers.
“We had power restored to all but about 399 customers within [an hour],” said Dave Ford, Southern California Edison spokesman.
Customers affected were from the north of Pine Cone Road, south of Verdugo Road, east of Encinas Drive and west of Cheryl Drive, Ford said.
AT&T and Charter Cable were also affected by the power outage. Traffic was also affected. Briggs Avenue was closed from Foothill Boulevard to Cross Street, and the traffic lights at Foothill and Briggs Avenue was inoperable from immediately following the accident until Wednesday afternoon.
The detour affected residents as well as parents of children attending Mountain Avenue Elementary School.
MG Trucking owned the truck; Rivas had been in Canyonside Road Culvert farther up Pickens Canyon.
The Department of Los Angeles County Public Works has been cleaning the culvert up Pickens Canyon.
“The truck had a 10-cubic yard capacity and it was roughly full of debris and rock [from upper Pickens Canyon],” Kaspar said.
The cleaning of debris began in early February and is expected to be completed by the end of March.
As Rivas watched the three large tow trucks pull his vehicle up the bank and right it onto the road he said he was amazed at how lucky he was to walk away from the accident.
When asked if he was ready to go back to work he said, “I am but my boss said I have to take the rest of the week off.”
California Highway Patrol investigates vehicle accidents that occur in the unincorporated area of Los Angeles, La Crescenta area. Officer T. Moreno said the accident is under investigation.
“He was lucky. It could have turned out much worse,” Moreno said.
Most witnesses and emergency responders couldn’t help but compare the accident to the Angeles Crest Highway big rig crash over on April 1, 2009. In that tragic accident the driver of a big rig reportedly lost power to his brakes as he drove over the Angeles Crest. He plowed into several cars and ended by driving into Flintridge Book Store, at its former location on Foothill Boulevard just east of Angeles Crest Highway. In that accident two people were killed and several were injured.
“It could have been like that accident,” Escher said. “I will tell you if [Rivas’] brakes really did go out then he is a hero.”
The accident is under investigation.