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Caldecott Tunnel accident recalls disaster of 33 years ago

Do you get claustrophobic when driving in a tunnel? If so, this story isn’t going to make your phobia any better, especially if you live in the Oakland area.

During Monday morning’s commute, 60 people were told to abandon their vehicles in the Caldecott Tunnel after an accident occurred and caused a smoky car fire in the far-right bore of the tunnel.

The California Highway Patrol said that no one was injured in the accident or subsequent fire, and motorists inside the tunnel were told to evacuate on foot, leaving their vehicles behind. 

The bore was shut down until firefighters had the blaze under control at 7:25 a.m. The tunnel was reopened at 11:15 a.m.

Luckily, the event unfolded nothing like the disaster in April 1982, when a chain-reaction accident involving a drunk driver, a loaded gasoline tanker and a speeding AC Transit bus caused an explosion that turned the westbound third bore into a deadly inferno.

Motorists couldn’t see that an accident had occurred because of the curvature of the tunnel, and they continued to drive in unsuspectingly. Some were lucky enough to flee their vehicles and escape, but others were trapped. A total of seven people were killed.

The tragedy led to a new law that prohibits trucks carrying flammable or poisonous loads from using Caldecott Tunnel, except between 3 and 5 a.m.

But even with the law in place, the tunnel is still a dangerous section of road as chain-reaction accidents can easily occur.

For example, in October of 2013 eight people were injured in an accident within the tunnel that caused a smoky fire to erupt.

While Oakland residents shouldn’t be fearful of the tunnel, they should always exercise added caution when driving through it as one negligent maneuver could potentially lead to a major ordeal.

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