Dropped lighter leads to SR-79 5-car pile-up that injured several

BEAUMONT — Multiple people were injured this morning in a five car pile-up that happened in Lamb Canyon near California Avenue after a woman reportedly became distracted while reaching for a lighter she had dropped while driving.

Officials have reported multiple major injuries in the Thursday, Sept. 13 crash that caused SR-79 to be temporarily closed while CHP investigated the cause of the accident and the wrecked vehicles were towed from the scene. The closure of the main north/south corridor that connects the San Jacinto Valley with Beaumont and the 10 Freeway caused a traffic nightmare for countless morning commuters stuck in gridlock caused by the crash.


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CHP and other emergency personnel were dispatched to the crash around 7:25 a.m., after receiving reports of a collision involving five vehicles. 911 callers also reported multiple victims and that all northbound lanes were blocked by wrecked cars.

When officials arrived they found a chaotic scene with multiple wrecked vehicles. Cars were attempting to pass the heavily-damaged vehicles even as good Samaritans and witnesses attempted to render aid and comfort to the victims.

Within minutes, CHP requested additional ambulances respond to the scene due to multiple victims and called for the full closure of the highway. Traffic was soon reported to be at a stand-still as commuters were diverted off the highway at Gilman Springs Rd. and California Ave.

Several people were eventually transported to area hospitals with injuries ranging from moderate to major, according to officials.

During their collision investigation CHP determined the accident happened when a woman driving southbound on SR-79 in a black Volkswagen Jetta rear-ended a southbound commercial truck, CHP spokesperson Officer Darren Meyer later explained. The impact sent the truck careening into the opposing lanes of traffic where it then struck three northbound vehicles.

“She dropped her lighter and reached down to pick it up and collided into a box truck that was also southbound,” Meyer explained. “The Jetta then ricocheted into the northbound lane and then collided with three other northbound cars.”

Although officials initially called for the temporary full closure of the highway, southbound lanes were quickly re-opened. All northbound lanes remained closed for about an hour.


Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 47, recently moved to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source and Shasta County News Source. Additionally, he writes for several other news organizations; including Riverside County based newspapers, Valley News, The Valley Chronicle, and Anza Valley Outlook; as well as Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County and Mountain Echo in Shasta County.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 28 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 14 – but soon to be 16 – grandchildren.


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