Cost from Capitol crash could top $8 million mark

Saturday February 10, 2001

The Associated Press 


SACRAMENTO — Damage caused by a truck driver who rammed his 18-wheeler into the state Capitol last month could top $8 million, a legislator said Friday. 

The General Services Department has estimated damage to the Capitol at $5 million to $8 million, said Assemblyman Dennis Cardoza, chairman of the Legislature’s Joint Rules Committee. 

He has since been told it will be at the upper end of that range. 

“It could run even higher,” Cardoza said. “It’s amazing how quickly it adds up. The first day’s tally was $2-to-$3 million, then it was $3-to-$5 (million), now it’s $5-to-$8 (million).” 

The preliminary damage estimate didn’t include the cost to fight the resulting fire or the cost of investigating the crash, the Merced Democrat said. 

Driver Mike Bowers, 37, of Hemet, was killed but no one else was injured when his big rig struck the Capitol’s south porch Jan. 16 as the Assembly was adjourning for the night. 

Bowers’ employer, Dick Simon Trucking Inc. of Salt Lake City, has a $50 million insurance policy on its drivers, and the state will seek reimbursement from the insurance company once all the costs have been tallied, said Cardoza, whose committee oversees maintenance of the Capitol. 

The California Highway Patrol has spent $179,724 on the crash, $175,000 of that for personnel costs, spokeswoman Anne DaVico said Friday. The CHP investigation and resulting costs are continuing, she said. 

The Sacramento Metro Fire Department determined Friday that its total cost is $23,194, said spokesman Capt. Don Braziel. Costs to other agencies, including Sacramento police, weren’t available Friday. 

The company’s insurer made an early offer to settle the claim but the state rejected it as premature, Cardoza said. He said that decision turned out to be wise, because costs keep mounting. 

Jeff Abernathy, the trucking company’s security manager, said he couldn’t comment Friday because he hadn’t seen the damage estimates. Abernathy said neither the company’s insurer nor its attorney would comment. He would not reveal the name of the insurance company. 

Water used to fight the fire flooded the Capitol’s elevator shafts, which had to be repeatedly pumped as water seeped back in from the surrounding substructure, Cardoza said. 

The elevators had to be checked for damage, mold had to be contained and plaster replaced. 

The state archivist had to specially treat old books, antiques and other artifacts in the historic governor’s office because smoke contains damaging acids. 

“That is an incredibly expensive process, so we don’t even know yet all of the different costs that are involved,” Cardoza said. 

He has scheduled a Feb. 22 hearing to gather what he hopes will be final damage estimates.