Two elderly Petaluma residents were killed in a fiery crash on Thursday when a semi tractor-trailer tore through an Interstate 80 guard rail near the UC Davis campus, smashing head-on into the sedan in which they were traveling.
The Solano County Coroner’s Office on Friday identified the driver of the BMW as 76-year-old Phang Phetsomphou and his passenger as 74-year-old Bouaket Phetsomphou. The relationship between them was not immediately certain, an investigator said. An autopsy is pending.
Authorities say it was a truck driver who choked on some food that triggered the crash. The BMW was traveling westbound near the Old Davis Road exit when the rig crashed into it, causing both vehicles to burst into flames, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The 10:30 a.m. collision affected traffic patterns in the area for much of the day, closing the westbound lanes of I-80 for nearly seven hours and diverting motorists onto Highway 113 on the west side of Davis and northbound Interstate 5 in Sacramento, as well as Highway 12 in Solano County.
I-80’s eastbound lanes, where the incident began, also were closed for about two hours.
CHP Officer Christopher Parker said the truck driver, whose name also had not been released as of this morning, was eating while driving and choked on a piece of the food, which caused him to briefly lose consciousness and drift to the right shoulder of the road.
He then veered back to the left, crashing into both a Toyota Corolla and a BMW station wagon whose drivers suffered minor to moderate injuries.
At that point the big rig crashed through the freeway’s center divider, taking out a 50-foot-long portion of guardrail before moving into the westbound lanes and colliding head-on with the BMW sedan.
Parker said the truck driver, who also sustained moderate injuries including burns, was transported to an area hospital for treatment, as were the two drivers injured in the eastbound lanes.
Whether the truck driver faces any criminal charges as a result of the incident will be determined following the investigation, Parker said.
A portion of westbound I-80 was shut down Thursday night while Caltrans road crews repaired a section of roadway damaged by the fire, according to the CHP’s online traffic information page.
— Enterprise staff writer Cory Golden contributed to this report. Reach Lauren Keene at email@example.com or 530-747-8048. Follow her on Twitter at @laurenkeene