The Public Eye

Reports from the Bee's investigative team

November 4, 2010
Fix it: When truck takes a big plunge, who cleans up?

The problem: A tractor-trailer loaded with peanut butter chips and ice cream freezers went off the side of Highway 4 near Ebbetts Pass in Alpine County in late August.

The driver was backing up when the trailer started going over the edge, the California Highway Patrol reported. He jumped off before the truck went over, falling 200 feet or more down the steep roadside. A tow company pulled the truck back up in October.

While leaf peeping, reader Megan Harris peeked over the roadside to see where the truck had been recovered and saw there was still a lot of debris. Bears have rooted through the food and several large freezers were still down the hill, she said.

She wanted to know who was going to clean up?

The solution: After a crash, it's up to the CHP to go after insurance companies to handle cleanup, said Officer Jeff Gartner.

The insurer for the truck and trailer stepped up to pay South Tahoe Towing to recover that part of the wreckage.

"It was one of the top 10" unusual towing jobs, said Scott DeChambeau, the towing company owner.

If CHP can't get the insurer for the contents to take care of it immediately, it may turn to the U.S. Forest Service, Gartner said.

The Forest Service - which manages the Toiyabe National Forest, where the crash occurred - would foot the cleanup bill until the insurer could pick up the tab.

The CHP wants it picked up before winter snows cover it up, Gartner said.

- Carlos Alcalá

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