Ramblings by Hal

Ramblings: An Overwhelming Traffic Collision

By Hal Collier, Retired LAPD

Barham off r universal-city-ramp-002-jpg-20150104Did you ever have a traffic accident that was just overwhelming? This occurred in the mid 70’s and as usual I’m working graveyard shift. I’ll describe the scene for you. The Hollywood Freeway (aka 101 Freeway) winds through the Cahuenga Pass.  Cal Trans has closed the entire southbound lanes for pavement repair. Everyone has to exit the Cahuenga Boulevard exit which has a stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. Cal Trans has started closing down lanes at Barham and funneling everyone down to one lane by Cahuenga.

 About 2:30 AM, a semi-truck loaded with strawberries from the Central California barrels down the Cahuenga off ramp. About half way down, the driver realizes there’s a stop sign at the bottom of the ramp. Now, this truck is still at freeway speeds when he attempts to make a hard right turn. Well, you guessed it—the trailer flipped over on its side. The driver was ok but the load inside the trailer began to smoke. Of course, the fire department came out and sprayed that foam that they carry in the fire truck.

Isuzu_truck_overturnedNow the trailer is open, and the concerned citizens didn’t want to see the free strawberries go to waste. The fire captain advised me that the foam they have sprayed will give anyone who eats the strawberries a bad case of diarrhea.

My partner and I chase off the strawberry lovers, but we now have a new problem. The entire Hollywood freeway is still coming down the off ramp. Now, they can’t turn right on Cahuenga. We start directing them northbound. That seemed to work for cars and small trucks. Semi-trucks couldn’t make the turn, so we had to have them back up Cahuenga. This turned into a traffic nightmare.

To complicate matters some of the fine Hollywood citizens were stealing the strawberry flats. Hope they have more than one bathroom and lots of toilet paper. 

We decide to have Cal Trans open the freeway. The foreman tells us he can’t open the freeway until 5:00 AM. That’s 2 1/2 hours away. We need another plan. Hey, lets close the freeway off ramp at Highland Avenue.September_26,_2007_accident,_highway_9,_CT,_flipped_truck

Bill Barren, my partner in hell that night, and I jumped into our lowest-bid city police car. We drove north on Cahuenga to head off the morning rush hour traffic jam. Now, Bill and I have never attended the Cal-Trans lane reduction class. And we have only two boxes of flares. We throw out a bunch of flares and traffic begins to brake sharply and swerve to avoid a bigger traffic collision.

We suddenly feared for our lives. After a few near misses, we abandon our plan and exit the freeway. We get back to the overturned semi and just when we think things can’t get worse we notice that the truck load is again starting to smoke.

Of course, the fire department again responds and now Cahuenga Boulevard is completely blocked. The good citizens of Hollywood have abandoned the strawberry picking season. I heard the freeway was backed up to the Canadian border.

CHP patrol carOk, maybe that was an exaggeration, but it was a mess. We figured that was the problem of the California Highway Patrol. Bill and I disappeared and made a bee line to Winchell’s.


More Street Stories

The Decoy Story

This post from Ron Ray, retired LAPD

Ok, here goes—

It was the late seventies. I was working Hollywood morning watch. My partner had just finished writing a ticket at the intersection of Santa Monica and Western. We were in a parking lot across the street from a local dive bar and since it was close to closing time we decided to sit and wait and snag a DUI driver leaving the bar.

We did not have to wait long and saw our future arrest come staggering out of the bar and start walking to his car parked at the curb. As he walked to his car we noticed that he was placing his hands on other vehicles for support as he walked. He gets in a late fifties Cadillac, starts the engine, cranks the wheel, and punches the accelerator. The car makes a sharp U-turn from the curb, tires are screeching with rubber burning and it goes blasting east on Santa Monica to the entrance to the Hollywood Freeway.

The guy has a lead on us and my partner does some driving to catch up. We are south bound on the freeway about three miles or so before we get the guy stopped and pulled over on an off ramp. We get him out of the car and one thing is readily apparent.

He is old. His driver’s license says he is 89.

One other thing becomes apparent. He is not under the influence. No booze on his breath, no nystagmus in his eyes, and his speech was clear and distinct. We asked him if he had been drinking and he said he had not had a drink in fifty years. We asked him what the hell was he doing in a bar then. He replied that he lived in an apartment down the street from the bar and went there because he was lonely and he could talk to people. We asked what the hell was up with his driving.

He replied, “I was sitting there in the bar when someone come in and says that there is a black and white parked across the street. Someone else asks, ‘Hey, Pops you want to earn some money?’”

“They pass the hat, everybody kicks in a few bucks—I think twenty to twenty-five. They say, ‘Take this money and go take the cops on a wild goose chase’……so I did.”

We kick the old guy loose. I am laughing, my partner is fuming. We race back to the bar and of course find it locked up tight.

All the cars gone, not a soul around.





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