Two people were killed and a truck driver was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol after a crash on Highway 135 in Orcutt involving a big-rig and five other vehicles.
At 6:30 a.m., personnel from the Santa Barbara County and Santa Maria Fire departments responded to the intersection of Highway 135 and Union Valley Parkway for the collision involving a semi tractor-trailer and five passenger vehicles, said fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni.
Two people, both from Santa Maria, were declared dead at the scene, Zaniboni said.
On Thursday evening, they were identified as the driver, Rickie Motley, 60, of Orcutt. and his passenger, Jesse Donald Gluyas, 24, of Solvang, according to Kelly Hoover, spokeswoman for the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department Coroner’s Bureau. Family members of the men had been notified of their deaths, she added.
Both men were in a 2009 Nissan, one of the involved passenger vehicles, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Their names were not released pending notification of relatives.
Nine additional people, all Santa Maria residents, involved in the crash had minor injuries, but were not transported to the hospital, authorities said. They range from ages 20 to 51, according to the CHP.
The southbound truck approached the intersection where traffic had stopped for the red light at Union Valley Parkway, California Highway Patrol Lt. Mike Brown said.
“For unknown reasons, the big-rig collided into five other vehicles,” Brown said.
Drugs and alcohol were suspected to be a factor in the crash, and the truck driver, Gilbert Pena, 56, of Santa Maria was arrested.
The large truck’s trailer, which was on its side, reportedly was filled with approximately 60,000 pounds of food, according to emergency dispatch reports.
Members of the CHP’s Commercial Enforcement Unit were assessing whether the contents needed to be unloaded before the truck was uprighted, Brown said.
Crumpled vehicles and debris were scattered across the southbound Highway 135 traffic lanes north of the intersection and on the shoulder of the busy highway.
Southbound lanes of Highway 135 were shut down between Foster Road and Union Valley Parkway while crews dealt with the wreckage.
Traffic was rerouted onto nearby streets around the scene of the crash until the road reopened just before 2:30 p.m.
Brown said Thursday morning it was too soon to estimate how long the section of roadway would be closed while CHP officers investigated the crash and crews removed the wreckage.
“This is a big scene with a lot of evidence we have to process,” Brown said. “We’re going to go systematically and thoroughly to make sure that we gather everything so you’re looking at a few hours before 135 is open to southbound traffic.”
Check back with Noozhawk for updates to this story.