18 cars damaged, 10 people hurt in pileup on foggy central California highway

Eds: Adds byline.


Associated Press Writer

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Eighteen vehicles piled up in a chain-reaction accident in dense fog Tuesday, scattering mangled cars along a highway and sending 10 people to hospitals, the California Highway Patrol said.

The crash, reported just before 8:20 a.m., temporarily shut down part of the southbound lanes of Highway 99 south of Fresno. The CHP had initially said 50 vehicles were involved.

Rescue crews had to cut three people out of a car that slammed into a tractor-trailer rig, CHP Officer Joseph Miller said. One woman was pinned in her car for almost 40 minutes while crews attempted to pry her out from between two big rigs.

"The driver's side was tucked up underneath a big rig, but luckily all the air bags deployed and I'm sure that saved her life," said Mike Bowman, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"We had about 10 to 15 foot visibility so I know it was even thicker when this wreck transpired," Bowman said.

Ten victims were transported to hospitals with minor to moderate injuries. Several other crash victims who gathered on the freeway shoulder complained of scratches and cuts but declined treatment, Bowman said.

Matasha Bailey, who was commuting from Fresno to Tulare, jumped out of her car to avoid being hit after she heard cars crashing in the haze around her.

"It seemed like metal crashing, crushing so I got out of my car and jumped the divider right here on the highway and just kind of waited on the other side of the freeway till I heard that it was clear," she told ABC-30. "It's amazing. I just feel like it's God's will because I should have been in this accident as well."