Nearly 300,000 tomatoes spill onto California highway

Nearly 300,000 tomatoes splattered across a Northern California interstate after a big rig transporting them collided with a vehicle, the California Highway Patrol told USA TODAY.

Highway Patrol officer Jason Tyhurst said the wreck happened at 5 a.m. along Interstate 80 west in Vacaville, about 35 miles west of Sacramento and 55 miles north of San Francisco.

Tyhurst told USA TODAY a truck carrying 50,000 pounds of tomatoes collided with a vehicle and swerved, striking another vehicle before driving into the center median.

The force was so strong it spilled about three-quarters of the load onto the highway, Tyhurst said. Passing vehicles ground them into a slimy pulp.

“People don’t realize how slippery the juice and the tomato skins are,” he said. “Once they hit the asphalt, it’s like ice.”

One car traveling east became stuck on the highway and was struck by another vehicle, Tyhurst said. Another car traveling in the same direction struck the two vehicles, he said, and another was sideswiped by another swerving car.

In the end, seven cars were involved in the crash – three on the eastbound lanes, including the truck, and four on the westbound side.

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Three people, including the driver of the truck, suffered minor injuries, and one was hospitalized with a broken leg, Tyhurst said.

Troopers shut down all lanes in both directions for several hours to clean the mess up.

“As we got things rolling, Caltrans (the California Department of Transportation) came in and used a front loader and sweeper,” Tyhurst said.

The roadway, he said, was reopened by 11:30 a.m.

Tyhurst said he did not know where the truck was headed.

Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her at nalund@usatoday.com and follow her on Twitter @nataliealund.

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