‘It Was Like a Bomb': Big Rigs Collide on I-15

The chain reaction-style crash happened around 2 a.m. on northbound I-15 near Mission Avenue

Three semi-trucks crashed on Interstate 15 in San Diego’s North County overnight – a violent collision one witness said sounded like a bomb exploding.

“It was like a bomb going off,” recalled truck driver and witness Cesar Lizarrega. “And all I [saw] was steam and trucks all over the place. I realized that we had a major accident here.”

Lizarrega witnessed the crash on northbound I-15 near Mission Avenue at around 1:40 a.m. Thursday.

According to the California Highway Patrol (CHP), Gustavo Hernandez, 39, of Mexico, was driving a tractor trailer semi-truck slowly in the No. 4 lane near the scales in Rainbow, California.

Just then, a semi-truck driven by Moreno Valley resident Jose Betancourt, 55, rear-ended Hernandez’s vehicle. CHP investigators said Betancourt saw Hernandez’s semi, but was unable to stop his big rig in time to avoid the crash.

Both big rigs stalled out, blocking the No. 4 lane. Both Hernandez and Betancourt got out of their trucks and stood on the right shoulder of the freeway.

At 2:04 a.m., another semi-truck driven by San Bernardino resident Salvador Munoz, 65, approached the area. Also unable to safely stop his big rig, Munoz plowed into the two stalled semi-trucks.

CHP officials said Munoz suffered serious injuries and was taken to Palomar Medical Center. Hernandez and Betancourt were not hurt in the chain-reaction crash.

Traffic lanes were blocked for several hours as investigators gathered evidence and worked to clear the semi-trucks from the scene. The crash remains under investigation.

Footage from the accident shows that one of the big rigs was a Costco Wholesale truck, while another was a Ralphs grocery store semi-truck.

Contact Us