Highway Accident Report

Adopted: September 9, 1980
U.S. ROUTE 101
MARCH 3, 1980

NTSB Number: HAR-80/05
NTIS Number: PB81-104762PDF Document (4.57 MB)


On March 3, 1980, at 9:05 p.m., Pacific standard time, a sedan entered U.S. Route 101, (the Ventura Freeway) westbound from the Laurel Canyon on-ramp. It was traveling in the far right lane of the four-land roadway, changed lanes to the left, and collided with the right front of a gasoline cargo tank truck pulling a gasoline cargo tank trailer westbound in the adjoining No. 3 traffic lane. Both vehicles moved left and the tank truck sideswiped a westbound pickup truck in the No. 2 lane. The tank truck forced the pickup left into the median barrier. The tank trailer rolled over the median barrier, was ruptured, and its contents spilled and ignited. The pickup truck and the tank truck, with tank trailer, were destroyed in the fire. Of the seven occupants in the pickup, five died of thermal injuries and the other two were burned severely. The drivers of the sedan and tank truck received minor injuries.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the improper lane change by the driver of the sedan which hit the tank truck and caused it to move to the left and strike the pickup truck forcing it into the median barrier. The fatalities and injuries were caused by the fire which ensued immediately when gasoline was released from the ruptured tank trailer.