Monday, 17 June 2024

Big rig goes into Blue Lakes in Wednesday crash

Officials work to pull a tractor trailer out of Blue Lakes late early on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 22, 2009. The trailer was brought back onto the roadway at around 3 p.m. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



BLUE LAKES – An early morning incident in which a semi truck went into Blue Lakes kept local agencies busy throughout Wednesday with the difficult task of pulling the truck up out of the lake.

The busy recovery scene also has led to traffic delays along Highway 20 in the Blue Lakes area, with Caltrans controlling the flow of vehicles past the curve where the truck went down the embankment. It took agencies more than 12 hours to completely clear the scene.

California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay said the crash occurred at 3:50 a.m. Wednesday.

Pedro Guevara, 39, of Stockton was behind the wheel of the Safeway tractor-trailer. Tanguay said Guevara had made a delivery at the Lakeport Safeway store and was traveling to Ukiah with four pallets of produce to deliver to the Safeway store there.

Guevara was near Midlake Road when he hit the embankment on the north side of the highway, said Tanguay. That caused Guevara to cross the highway and go down over the embankment into the lake. The truck appeared to have taken out a tree as it went over the edge.

Tanguay said Guevara survived the crash, but was trapped in the cab, which was partially submerged. Initial reports indicated the water was up to Guevara's neck with his legs pinned underneath the dashboard.

That's where two local good Samaritans enter the story.

Keith Hoyt, a member of the Northshore Dive Team, said a man living in a home across the lake heard the crash, came outside and heard Guevara calling for help. The man, whose name Hoyt didn't know, called 911 and then got in his boat and came over to the scene.

At the same time, Bruce Cottrell – a local roofing contractor – responded to the crash, said Hoyt.

Cottrell had a headlamp which he used to light the area. Then he went down the embankment and into the water, where he found Guevara trapped in the cab. Cottrell got into the cab with Guevara and helped hold his head above water.


When Hoyt got to the scene, he got into the water and swam over to the vehicle and recognized Cottrell with Guevara in the cab.

Hoyt said Guevara's leg was trapped but Guevara said he could feel his foot, so they didn't think it was broken. The cab was badly smashed up, with broken windows and a large tree limb sheered off during the truck's trip down the embankment lying across the cab.

Swimming in the dark, Hoyt was able to get the driver's side door open. Inside the cab, he something holding Guevara's leg. Hoyt used a pair of shears to cut the item, which was later discovered to be the cuff of his pant's leg which was caught on something.

Cottrell helped Guevara – who Hoyt said is a pretty big guy – get through the cab's back window and over the crushed muffler, which had a lot of sharp metal and ripped up Guevara's pants. Guevara got up the bank under his own power but with some assistance from Cottrell, said Hoyt.

Once up on the road, medics put Guevara on a backboard, treated him for a head laceration and got him warmed up, according to Hoyt.

Cottrell stayed with Guevara the whole time. “He definitely was a hero,” Hoyt said of Cottrell.

Tanguay said Guevara was flown to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital by REACH air ambulance. There was no word late Wednesday on his condition.

Within 45 minutes of the crash, the Northshore Dive Team had placed “booms” – which look like long rolls of materials – in the water to prevent the spread of diesel fuel into the lake, said Northshore Battalion Chief Pat Brown. Hoyt said they were assisted by the resident from across the lake who had called 911.

Highway 20 was blocked for several hours in the early morning as Northshore Fire, Lakeport Fire, Cal Fire CHP, the Office of Emergency Services, California Fish & Game, Caltrans and Konocti Conservation Camp worked to clear the scene. The roadway was reopened with traffic control shortly before 6:30 a.m.

Northshore Fire and CHP were in charge of the incident, sharing a unified command, Brown explained.

In order to get the truck out of the lake the trailer had to be unloaded and the fuel removed. The embankment's thick underbrush also had to be cut away to allow the recovery operation to proceed. Brown said they had to separate the cab from the trailer in order to remove the vehicle.

Two large tow trucks worked to pull the truck up the steep embankment, which was completed a little after 3 p.m., said Tanguay. About an hour later, the cab was pulled from the lake, said Hoyt.

The CHP reported the roadway was clear once again at approximately 5:17 p.m.

Brown said Safeway hired a Bay Area firm to handle environmental cleanup. Though some diesel was believed to have gone into the lake, Brown said he believed the amount was very small.

Speeding isn't believed to have been an issue in the crash, said Tanguay. While it's still under investigation, driver fatigue is emerging as a possible factor.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




Staff with an environmental firm hired by Safeway were working at the scene in a row boat on Wednesday, April 22, 2009. The semi's crushed cab is seen in the middle of the picture, partially submerged in Blue Lakes. The white




Crews work to remove diesel fuel from the truck before it's pulled up the slope. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

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