One Simple Mistake Which Led to These Six People Dying a Horrific Death

T wo men watched their wives and four children die in a burning vehicle after a tractor trailer hit the rear of their minivan at 55 miles per hour on Interstate 5 in California yesterday, which caused the vehicle to tumble down a steep embankment on the side of the highway before finally coming to rest at the bottom of a grassy ravine.

The truck driver attempted to assist the two men in rescuing the six people from the wreckage — but to no avail. The minivan was suddenly ablaze by the time officers of the California Highway Patrol arrived at the scene; and despite frantic efforts to save the women and children, they perished in the fire.

One Simple Mistake Which Led to These Six People Dying a Horrific Death

There are what appear to be glaring holes in the veracity of the story — such as what happened to the driver of the other vehicle which was involved in a minor accident with the minivan, causing it to stop prior to the truck slamming into its rear end? Why did the fathers not rescue their family members through the front doors used by them to leave the vehicle instead of trying to pry open the back doors?

In my opinion, the murkiness of those details is not as important as this paragraph which I read in this article written by Travis M. Andrews of The Washington Post:

“Likely frustrated, they pulled over to the dark shoulder of the road to inspect the damage, but part of the unwieldy van stuck out into the highway.”

Ensuring that the vehicle was completely off of the road should have been the primary focus of the driver of the minivan before the vehicle came to a complete stop, if I understand the story of what happened correctly. In my opinion, that one simple detail could have prevented the chain of events which caused this tragedy to occur in the first place; and instead of six people dying a horrific death at Tejon Pass — which is in the mountains approximately 65 miles northwest of Los Angeles — the families could have instead been enjoying their vacation right now in northern California.


I have driven on that stretch of Interstate 5 in both directions a number of times; and you really have to remain alert while driving on that heavily traveled yet treacherous section of highway.

When I suddenly experienced a flat tire as a result of unexpectedly hitting a pothole on Highway R76 in what seemed like the middle of nowhere in South Africa on my way to Lesotho, the first thing I did was pull the car completely off the road and onto a grassy area on the side before it came to a complete stop so that the chances of another vehicle hitting the one which I was driving would significantly decrease — as you can see for yourself in the photograph shown at the top of this article.

Driving is part of the travel experience of many frequent fliers — especially when renting a car at their destinations. For your safety, if you find yourself in the driving version of experiencing “irregular operations”, please ensure that you pull the vehicle which you are driving completely off of the right of way of the roadway — if it is at all possible — before it comes to a complete stop.

That one action could save your life.

In the meantime, the sorrow which I am experiencing of learning the unfortunate fate of the two families is substantial…

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

4 thoughts on “One Simple Mistake Which Led to These Six People Dying a Horrific Death”

  1. DaninMCI says:

    Good points. One error I see many drivers make is to pull over on the shoulder of a busy interstate highway to change a flat tire. Most of the time it is much safer to drive slowly on the flat until you reach the next exit and then find a nice level spot to change the tire. Sure you may damage the rim and or the tire but it’s better than getting hit by a car or truck.
    As a defensive driving instructor I won’t even start on texting and driving which is a major problem.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      That is good advice, DaninMCI. Thank you.

      As for the dangers of texting while driving, I already covered that topic in these two recent articles:

  2. Vicente says:

    Note 03:30 is time of accident. A dangerous time to be driving, as this is when you would be most sleep-deprived and judgement impaired. I’ve driven this route many times as well, with my family. But only once for an night run and would never do it again.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      The only fortunate factor of driving at 3:30 in the morning is that traffic would typically be light at that hour, Vicente — and your point should be noted, as it is a good one…

      …but it reminded me of the time I was in bumper-to-bumper traffic in New York at that hour. I sighed, “Only on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway could there be this kind of traffic at 3:30 in the morning…”

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