Big rig driver who died in multi-car crash on 5 freeway identified

- Authorities have identified the big rig driver who was killed this week in a fiery multi-vehicle crash on the 5 freeway near Griffith Park.

Officials say 41-year-old Thang Le died at the scene of the crash that happened around 11 AM on Tuesday.

Ten others were injured, one critically, in the crash Tuesday involving three big rigs and five other vehicles on the 5 Freeway in the Los Feliz area.

The crash, which forced a full closure of the freeway, was reported at Los Feliz Boulevard about 10:55 a.m. and sparked a massive fire as debris scattered across the southbound freeway lanes.

The southbound lanes remained closed south of the Ventura (134) Freeway for more than seven hours, reopening at 6:15 p.m., according to California Highway Patrol Officer Alex Rubio.

According to Jose Nunez of the California Highway Patrol, the driver of a northbound big rig inexplicably swerved across the center median and slammed into another big rig in the southbound lanes, prompting the chain-reaction crash that ultimately included three passenger vehicles, a passenger van, another big rig and a pickup hauling a trailer.

The driver of that northbound big rig was killed in the accident, according to a release from the CHP, but his identity has not been released pending notification of the next of kin.

"I saw the whole thing," witness Koby Turner told FOX 11. "The semi came across the median and hit the tanker and it blew up instantly. Then after that it was 'Pop, pop, pop,' a bunch more explosions."

One of the passenger vehicles wound up wedged beneath one of the big rigs. The driver of the third big rig involved in the crash managed to drive to the right shoulder of the freeway, avoiding the major fire that erupted.

CHP released the names of five drivers involved in the accident. Rafael Ramirez, 22, of Los Angeles, who was driving a sedan in the northbound lane, was sent to St. Joseph's Hospital. Nick Agajanian Sr., 63, of Fontana, driving a pickup truck in the northbound lane, was also sent to St. Joseph's.

Rodolfo Perez, 48, of Bakersfield, was driving a tractor trailer in the southbound lane. He was sent to Glendale Adventist. Kimberly Busacay, 25, of Chatsworth, who was driving a sedan in the southbound lane, was sent to USC Medical Center.

Ryan Brubaker, 43 of Laguna Niguel, was driving a sedan in the southbound lane and was not hospitalized.

"The cause of this traffic collision and if alcohol and or drugs were a factor, is still under investigation,'' according to the CHP.

Firefighters and paramedics set up a triage area on the freeway to treat the injured. The critically injured person was a 27-year-old woman, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

A dog in one of the big rigs also died, fire officials said. The nine other people who were treated suffered only minor injuries.

Both sides of the freeway were closed while an investigation was conducted.

Shortly after noon, two northbound slow lanes were reopened to allow traffic through, and all lanes were reopened by early afternoon -- but CHP officials warned that some lanes could be closed again to accommodate cleanup work.

 

A dog in one of the big rigs also died, fire officials said. The nine other people who were treated suffered only minor injuries.

Both sides of the freeway were closed while an investigation was conducted. Shortly after noon, two northbound slow lanes were reopened to allow traffic through, and all lanes were reopened by early afternoon -- but CHP officials warned that some lanes could be closed again to accommodate cleanup work.

The southbound freeway remained closed south of the Ventura (134) Freeway, and it was unclear when the stretch would open. Motorists were advised to prepare for an extended afternoon commute through the area.

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