If you’re cruising downhill on a major freeway, and you see a huge big rig bearing down on you, what do you do? Well, if you’re California Highway Patrol officer Tony Christolear, you get right in front of it.
Earlier this month, officer Christolear was on duty on a section of Interstate 5 called “The Grapevine.” The grapevine is a long, steep grade outside of Bakersfield on which there have been a number of major trucking accidents over the years.
On this day, the I-5 was crowded with holiday traffic when officer Christolear spotted the big rig traveling at a higher rate of speed than other traffic. He got closer and noticed excessive smoke coming from the trailers’ wheels.
When the driver of the rig failed to slow down after the officer tried to pull him over, Christolear realized he was dealing with a runaway truck. He immediately turned on his flashing lights and siren, pulled his cruiser in front of the rig and put himself between the rig and the holiday traffic.
He cleared a lane so the rig wouldn’t crash into anyone. Well, he cleared a lane until one driver failed to move over. And that’s when things got ugly… or uglier. Christolear continued to try to get the driver to move over, but in so doing, he allowed the semi to catch up to him. It smashed into the back of his patrol car. His car then bounced into the car in front of him, and then bounced back into the big rig. He and his car were playing a very dangerous game of pinball.
Officer Christolear’s patrol car finally came to rest after it hit the center divider. The runaway semi continued a bit further before it ran off the road and overturned. Christolear, the driver of the semi, and the driver of the car that failed to pull over were all taken to the hospital and treated for mostly minor injuries.
The accident is being investigated, with questions about the condition of the truck’s brakes, why the truck driver didn’t use any of the runaway truck ramps; and why the other driver failed to get out of the way. But one thing is certain: If Tony Christolear hadn’t acted as bravely and as quickly as he did, the outcome of this runaway truck accident would have been much worse.