Second Rim Fire truck in accident

By Alex MacLean / The Union Democrat

A truck driver avoided injury Monday morning when his semi tipped over while hauling rice straw for post-Rim Fire recovery efforts on a road in the Stanislaus National Forest.

It was the second Rim Fire truck accident in four days, although much less severe than the one Friday that claimed the life of a 26-year-old truck driver working on the same project.

The California Highway Patrol was still withholding his name Monday pending confirmation from Tuolumne County Coroner Rob Lyons that the man's wife had been notified.

On Monday, the CHP received a report about 8:30 a.m. that the second semi had tipped over on Forest Road 3N01 near Cherry Lake Road. The truck was hauling rice straw for a mulching project intended to prevent burned soils from eroding during winter storms.

CHP officers left the scene about 3 p.m. after a tow truck responded to remove the overturned 2005 Freightliner, according to CHP Officer Nick Norton.

Norton didn't know the exact amount of rice straw the truck was hauling, though the average load per truck is less than roughly 50 tons as previously reported.

Burned Area Emergency Response officials overseeing the mulching project estimated the average load per truck was about 50 one-ton bales of straw.

Norton said the maximum limit under state and federal regulations is 80,000 pounds - or 40 tons. Furthermore, several inspection points leading up to the project area would have detected any trucks carrying overweight loads.

The man who died Friday morning was traveling east on Cottonwood Road in a 1989 International about 10:30 a.m.

Witnesses told CHP officers the brakes on his truck started smoking before he went off the Clavey River Bridge and fell about 150 feet to the canyon floor.

The drivers in both accidents were transporting rice straw for the Manteca-based company Gigli Hay Inc., which the U.S. Forest Service contracted with to provide the material for the BAER team's mulching project.

Forest Service management and BAER team members met Monday morning after the second accident to discuss the status of the project, according to Forest Service spokeswoman Veronica Garcia.

Garcia said they were looking at maps to determine alternate routes and possibly meet with the rice straw contractor.

The Union Democrat
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