By Andrea Swayne
(Original post 9 a.m., Updated 9:35 a.m., Updated 1:31 p.m.)
Southbound traffic on Interstate 5 came to a complete halt this morning due to a multi-vehicle accident just north of the Border Patrol Checkpoint and weigh station, south of San Clemente.
According to California Highway Patrol Officer Mike Martinez, a call came in at 7:10 a.m. reporting an accident across all lanes involving a semi carrying propane, two additional semis and a box truck.
All lanes were closed until 9 a.m. and southbound motorists were being turned around and sent back north at Cristianitos.
Northbound lanes remained open but came to a near standstill as well.
According to Martinez, a 52-year-old man from Arleta driving a Freightliner pulling a 99¢ Only Store trailer was preparing to get in line for the checkpoint weigh station when the accident occurred. The driver was traveling at about 55 mph and was unable to slow down in time to avoid hitting a propane truck already waiting in line. The propane truck was pushed into a semi pulling a flatbed and a box truck.
Debris and fuel was scattered across all southbound lanes.
The driver of the box truck was transported to a Mission Hospital for a laceration to his head. The other drivers complained of pain but declined medical transport.
Alcohol or drugs are not suspected to have been a factor in the accident, Martinez said.
By 9:30 a.m. CHP had opened the center divider to let cars through and the CHP had begun the process of opening lanes one at a time as traffic began to clear.
All lanes were reopened by 10:30 a.m. but as of 1:15 p.m. traffic remained backed up for miles along I-5 stretching through San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano. Pacific Coast Highway through the three cities was also jammed with detouring motorists.
Residual congestion is expected to keep traffic backed up for the rest of the day.
“We expect things to clear up by about 3 p.m., but that’s just in time for the evening rush,” Martinez said.