Wrong-way driver crashes into 2 big rigs on I-580

February 4, 2010 5:23:22 PM PST
A driver traveling the wrong way on Interstate Highway 580 near Livermore caused a crash that involved two big-rigs and resulted in contaminated soil and diesel fuel being spilled on the roadway.

The massive tie up began with a bizarre crash in the eastbound lanes and drivers in the westbound lanes who just had to slow down to look at the carnage.

The driver of the BMW identified as 52-year-old Beiru Chen of Saratoga, was going the wrong direction in the westbound lanes.

She then apparently realized her mistake and hit the brakes spinning 180 degrees and slamming the cars back end into the right front of an oncoming semi.

"The BMW 5 series went off to the right shoulder with an injured party ejected from the vehicle also on the right shoulder. The helicopter was called in and the female driver was airlifted to Eden Hospital in Castro Valley," CHP officer Steve Creel said.

Chen has what are described as non life threatening injuries.

The tie-up would have been short lived, except the semi she crashed into, was carrying 42,000 pounds of hazardous materials from the shell oil refinery in Martinez bound for Southern California.

About 14,000 pounds of it, containing selenium and vanadium ended up in the lanes of eastbound 580.

"The biggest concern is ingestion, inhalation and contact with it. And as long as you stay outside of the contaminated area, there is no hazard to the passing traffic," Officer Creel said.

And for about four solid hours, that passing traffic was passing by in just one open lane at about 10 miles per hour.

The CHP says they have no reason to suspect alcohol was involved and believe the driver of the BMW, though ejected, may have been wearing a seatbelt, but could have been forced from the vehicle through the sheer force of the collision.