VALLEJO -- A fiery big-rig crash off an elevated roadway killed one person and forced the partial closure of two highways Thursday morning.
The cause of the initial collision -- which took place about 6:40 a.m. on Highway 37, near the offramp to Sonoma Boulevard -- was not yet known, according to California Highway Patrol Ofc. Chris Parker. After that crash, the big rig went off the highway, down an embankment, and came to rest on a grassy area immediately east of Sonoma Boulevard, where it caught on fire.
The driver of the big-rig, 43-year-old Roseville resident William Ballard, was taken to a hospital where he later succumbed to his injuries. The driver of the pickup refused medical attention at the scene, Parker said.
Two witnesses who were driving on Sonoma Boulevard said they saw sparks on the elevated portion of Highway 37, then saw the big rig crash off the highway and fall to the ground below, Parker said.
Those two witnesses, along with an off-duty paramedic who was driving by, ran to the big rig and found the driver hanging upside down, his leg stuck in a seat belt. They managed to free him before the cab was fully engulfed in flames.
The truck was carrying a delivery for Ace Hardware, and Sonoma County hazardous materials crews responded to the fire, Parker said. The Sonoma County Fire Department reported "multiple explosions" as the fire grew.
Westbound Highway 37 and northbound Sonoma Boulevard were closed for about three hours.
Around 2:55 p.m., the connector ramp between the two roadways opened, after remining closed for over eight hours.
Staff writer Katie Nelson contributed to this report.