California Highway Patrol officers said a big rig driver was going too fast before he lost control and rolled over on state Route 76, killing him and leaving his passenger injured Thursday.
The big rig truck crashed into a ditch along westbound SR-76 east of Valley Center Road, landing completely upside-down at about 8:10 a.m., CHP said. The truck's haul, hundreds of bags of mulch, was scattered around the crashed truck.
The initial indication was brake failure, according to a CHP officer at the scene, but the investigation into the crash was ongoing. Investigators told NBC 7 that the length of the skid marks left on the roadway indicated the driver was going too fast.
"It's a very steep grade, but as you're coming down, or going up, it doesn't seem to be that steep," CHP Officer Kevin Smale said.
Cal Fire crews worked for nearly a half-hour to free the trapped passenger and transport him to a nearby hospital via helicopter, the agency said. The passenger was able to give officers a statement of what happened.
The driver, identified Monday as 54-year-old Nelson Dominguez of Indio, was pronounced dead at the scene. He was not wearing a seatbelt.
Hours after the crash, crews had still not cleared the scene. A Sig Alert blocking both directions of traffic on SR-67 was issued around 9 a.m. and was still in effect by noon.
CHP said there were still hours of work left to be done before the roadway could be completely reopened. In the meantime, traffic was diverted or forced to turn around, the agency said.
No other information was available.
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