USA Today reports that almost 300,000 tomatoes weighing 50,000 lbs. were dumped on the road, which is typically packed with commuter traffic. (Other sources, including the New York Times, have the number at 150,000 tomatoes.) The truck in question hit a vehicle, then a second vehicle, before colliding with the center median, according to Officer Jason Tyhurst of the California Highway Patrol.
In fact, Tyhurst said that the eastbound lanes were covered with tomatoes across 200 feet, with the fruit piling up to be around “two feet deep” in some parts.
All those tomatoes created an accident of their own after drivers unknowingly drove over the fruits, resulting in a risky combination of juice, oil, and dirt. Seven cars were involved in another crash, with three people suffering minor injuries and a fourth breaking their leg.
“Those tomato skins, man,” Officer Tyhurst said. “Once they hit the asphalt, it’s like walking on ice.”
The California Highway Patrol shuttered the highway so the California Department of Transportation could clean the roads with a “scooper like a backhoe.” They also used an absorbent powder on the roads and street sweepers. It took until around 3 p.m. for Interstate 80 to completely reopen.
“We don’t see that amount of tomatoes fall off a truck and close a highway,” Vince Jacala, a spokesman for the department, told the NYT. “Like, usually it’s a couple here and there.”
It’s currently California’s tomato season, when many trucks drive tomatoes from Solano County to the Bay Area and Sacramento via Interstate 80. “I’m just glad there wasn’t a fatality,” Tyhurst said, “because that easily could have been a fatality.”