Big rig boxes in alleged DUI driver, leading to fatal pileup on I-5 in California

Erin Tracy
·2 min read

An allegedly intoxicated driver on northbound Interstate 5 near Westley precipitated the events that led to a big rig pileup with one of the drivers killed Wednesday morning, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Around 1 a.m., a big rig driver spotted a red sedan swerving across both lanes of traffic south of Howard Road, said CHP Officer Tom Olsen.

The big rig driver “felt the motorist’s driving behavior was so extreme they felt obligated to stop it,” Olsen said. “The big rig driver actually boxed in the DUI driver ... (He) used his trailer in a manner to stop the DUI driver from proceeding.”

There is no indication he called 911 to report the DUI driver, Olsen said.

Two more big rigs that were traveling behind them also came to a complete stop.

The driver of a third big rig, Elpidio Ramirez Tovar, 41, from Five Points in Fresno County, failed to stop. He rear ended the big rig in front of him, which was pushed into the big rig in front of it, the CHP said.

Tovar was ejected from the cab. He landed on the east shoulder of the highway and died at the scene, Olsen said.

It’s unknown if Tovar was wearing a seat belt and the speed remains under investigation but Olsen said, “His cab was completely ripped off the trailer so he was probably going freeway speeds at the time of the impact or pretty close.”

The driver of the big rig he rear ended suffered minor injuries and the driver of the big rig in front of him was not injured.

The driver of the red sedan, 40 year-old Daniel Avilan-Tirado, of Stockton, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs.

Traffic on I-5 was backed up for miles while officers investigated the crash. The slow lane remained closed until just before 10 a.m. when the crash scene was cleared.