California Highway Patrol (CHP) officials said Monday that a big rig carrying nearly 300,000 tomatoes while traveling on a Northern California interstate crashed into two vehicles, sending the fruit rolling out of the semi-trailer and creating a two-foot-deep red sea across the highway.
Officer Jason Tyhurst of the CHP told The Daily Wire that at approximately 5 a.m. Monday morning, a big rig was traveling westbound on Interstate 80 in Vacaville — about 35 miles west of Sacramento — when it collided with a vehicle that sent the truck swerving through lanes and hitting another car before plowing through the center divider.
“The big rig was carrying a load of tomatoes, and all the tomatoes spilled onto the eastbound lanes of traffic vehicles traveling eastbound,” Tyhurt said.
The tomato-covered highway soon became too slick for other vehicles to endure, causing a chain reaction of crashes.
“Those tomato skins, man,” Tyhurst told The New York Times. “Once they hit the asphalt, it’s like walking on ice.”
The mixture of tomato juice, oil, and dirt caused one vehicle to become stuck on the road before two others would eventually strike the car. Another vehicle was sideswiped by a car struggling to gain control on the slippery interstate.
Tyhurst reported that out of the seven vehicles involved in the crash, three people were transported for injuries, with another hospitalized with a broken leg.
“I’m just glad there wasn’t a fatality because that easily could have been a fatality,” he said.
Officials closed almost every highway lane on both sides of the interstate. At the same time, cleanup crews with the California Department of Transportation used a “scooper like a backhoe” and street sweepers to make the roads safe to drive again, which naturally caused traffic delays for travelers.
“We don’t see that amount of tomatoes fall off a truck and close a highway,” Vince Jacala, a spokesman for the department, told The New York Times. “Like, usually it’s a couple here and there.”
Jacala knew once the department saw the photos from the incident, that would close down the highway “for a while.”
Eyewitnesses of Monday morning’s incident caused a reaction from commuters on social media.
“You tell your boss you’re late for work because of a tomato spill on the highway. Do they believe you?” Andrew G. Haubner, a reporter with a CBS affiliate in Sacramento, asked.
Others described the experience on the highway as driving through sauce or salsa.
CHP officials reported the interstate fully reopened by 3:00 p.m. later that day.
— CHP SOLANO (@ChpSolano) August 29, 2022