Big rig driver found dead on snow-packed Grapevine: CHP

California

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — Two major routes to Southern California remain closed Thursday morning as a winter storm dumped snow over the Grapevine and Tehachapi Pass, according to Caltrans.

The California Highway Patrol said a driver was found dead Thursday morning inside his big rig near Lebec along the 5 Freeway.

A tow truck driver responded to a big rig stopped on the southbound 5 Freeway just north of Frazier Mountain Park Road at 8:25 a.m. and found the driver unresponsive, according to the CHP.

The Kern County Fire Department responded minutes later and pronounced the driver, a man, dead at the scene before 9 a.m.

Officials called for the coroner’s office to respond to the scene. It was not immediately clear as to whether the driver’s death was weather-related.

No other information on the driver’s death was immediately available.

Highway officials recommend travelers to Southern California to use Highway 101 to avoid wintery driving conditions and road closures.

The 5 Freeway remains closed at Parker Road in Castaic and at Grapevine Road just five miles south of the 99 split near Bakersfield. There is no estimate for when the freeway will reopen.

The CHP closed the freeway around 10:30 p.m. Christmas night due to a large number of stuck vehicles blocking lanes and heavy snowfall.

Highway 58 also remains closed at Tower Line Road near Bakersfield and at Highway 14 at Mojave. There is no estimate for when the highway will reopen.

The CHP closed the highway around 3:30 a.m. because of heavy snowfall.

Sanger resident Sammy Garcia, a big rig driver for Harris Ranch Beef Company, got stuck on eastbound Highway 58 around 3:30 a.m. when it closed and has been waiting with other truckers all morning for the highway to reopen.

Garcia said the trip up Highway 58 started off with slushy, wet snow.

Heavier snow started to fall the closer he got to Tehachapi and has not let up since.

He added that he did not see any spinouts on the way up the mountains.

Garcia said the snowfall is a little lighter now but still nonstop.

The big rig driver said traffic started moving just before 8:40 a.m.

Garcia reported Highway 58 was reduced to one lane through Tehachapi while Caltrans continues to maintain a closure through the mountains.

The 5 and Highway 58 were not the only routes to Southern California affected by snow.

The 15 Freeway, a major route between Southern California and Las Vegas, was also closed due to heavy snow and spinouts at Cajon Pass.

KTLA-TV reported around 9:30 a.m. that the southbound lanes of the 15 Freeway through the Cajon Pass have reopened with CHP escorts.

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