Big rig driver charged in multi-vehicle morning crash

The Associated Press
Saturday April 28, 2001

SACRAMENTO — One person died and seven were injured Friday in a rush-hour crash on Interstate 5 that officers say was caused by a big-rig driver who didn’t see a car when he tried to change lanes. 

Around 8:10 a.m. the southbound tractor-trailer driven by Kulvir Lehal, 34, of Canada tried to change lanes and hit a passenger car, causing the truck driver to lose control, the California Highway Patrol said. 

The truck crossed a cement median into the northbound lanes, hitting several cars and another big rig and catching fire. 

Median pieces ruptured the truck’s gas tank.  

The truck burned down to its wheels, sending up a thick plume of smoke that could be seen throughout the greater Sacramento area. 

In all, debris from the cement median and the crash itself damaged 14 vehicles. 

Lehal was booked into the Sacramento County jail on misdemeanor manslaughter charges, the CHP said. 

Killed in the crash was John Estrada, 51, of Sacramento, whose new black sports car was one of those smashed in the northbound lanes, the CHP said. The other injuries were minor. 

Witness Michael Via, a driver with Lucent Technologies, said was on northbound I-5 when he saw the big rig sliding sideways toward him. 

“My partner started screaming and hollering ‘Slow down.’ I saw the truck coming in our direction going sideways, smoke billowing out of both sides. It was already on fire,” he said. 

The truck came to a stop when it bumped a small, white passenger vehicle, Via said. 

The driver of the car was already stopped when the truck struck her car. 

She ran out of her car immediately, followed about 30 seconds later by the driver of the big rig, Via said.