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Trucker dies as rig plummets off S.F. bridge

A stretch of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge sees its first fatality when the driver of a speeding big rig loses control and plummets 200 feet from the span, authorities said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An accident-plagued stretch of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge saw its first fatality Monday when the driver of a speeding big rig lost control and the truck plummeted 200 feet from the span, authorities said.

The truck hauling a full load of pears was traveling about 50 mph — 10 mph over the speed limit — when the driver lost control on a westbound S-curve, California Highway Patrol Sgt. Trent Cross said.

The rig hit a rail and went over the side, landing on Yerba Buena Island.

"The driver was going way too fast," Cross said.

The name of the trucker killed in the crash was not released.

Speed, load blamed
Authorities said the speed coupled with the shifting load propelled the truck over the side of the bridge.

Lanes were closed following the pre-dawn crash, backing up traffic during the morning commute.

The California Department of Transportation plans to replace roadway markers Monday night that were damaged during the crash, spokesman Bart Ney said.

The agency also plans to add reflective paint to the railing that motorists can see as they go through the curve, he said.

There have been about 40 crashes on the S-curve since it opened Sept. 8. The speed limit drops from 50 mph to 40 mph along that stretch of the bridge, but drivers are advised to slow down even more to 35 mph through the curve.

The S-curve is a temporary detour until construction on a new, seismically safe eastern span of the bridge is completed.

Cross said speed was responsible for most of the crashes that have taken place on the curve, including an overturned big-rig on Oct. 14 that tied up traffic for hours.

Design flaw disputed
"We don't believe the roadway design is the issue," he said. "There's just a small percentage of people who choose to ignore the posted speed limit."

Transportation officials have improved traction on the new section and installed additional signage reminding drivers about the change in speeds, Ney said.

Officials also plan to install signs showing drivers their speed and a large overhead sign with flashing lights indicating the 40 mph limit, he said.