Gravel truck slams into house, killing 3, after brakes fail on Calif. highway
LOS ANGELES — A runaway truck hauling tons of gravel went over an embankment yesterday near Santa Barbara and crushed a home, killing a man, woman, and child, authorities said.
The truck’s brakes failed as it careened along State Highway 154 and through an intersection then hit two parked cars before plunging down a driveway onto the house, authorities said.
“Completely flattened it,’’ said David Sadecki, Santa Barbara County fire captain.
The truck was hauling two loaded trailers and displayed a sign indicating it could carry 26 tons of gravel, Sadecki said. A California Highway Patrol website that logs traffic incidents said its brakes failed.
The trucker may have been trying to avoid a hotel when he went into the driveway, Sadecki said.
Searchers scrambled to dig out rubble and gravel under the truck to reach the victims.
Neighbors had said a fourth person might have been in the house, but Sadecki reported that it was later determined he had left before the crash.
Next-door neighbor Erasmo Zapien, 64, said he heard an enormous crash and saw the family’s house collapse.
“Everything fell down,’’ he said. “It was completely down.’’
The truck driver, identified as Joaquin Garcia Morales, was treated for a minor facial cut after the vehicle landed on the 1,000-square-foot wooden home that had been built more than 50 years ago.
It was one of two homes on the lot that were surrounded by ministorage units.
Both sat below the embankment and could not be seen from the roadway.
Coroner’s officials did not immediately identify the victims.
Zapien identified the family living in the house as Leo Leon, 23; his wife, Lorena, 27; and their 7-year-old son. He did not name the son.
The family had moved to the United States from Oaxaca, Mexico, about five years ago, according to Zapien.
Leo Leon worked as a chef and Lorena Leon was a housewife, he said.
Zapien said he recently saw the family in good spirits, preparing to celebrate Leo Leon’s 24th birthday Friday.
“They were very friendly, very good people,’’ he said.
Santa Barbara is about 75 miles north of Los Angeles. The crash site is not known for accidents. State Highway 154 is flat for about 1.5 miles before it reaches the intersection.