Big-rig driver dies in fiery crash into Pittsburg restaurant

PITTSBURG, Calif. (KTVU and wires) -- A driver died after his truck exploded into flames early Monday after crashing into two vehicles and then a building, a police captain said.

Officers responded shortly after 8:20 a.m. to the 3800 block of Railroad Avenue on reports of what witnesses described as an explosion at a building after a big-rig crashed into it, Pittsburg police Capt. Ron Raman said.

Arriving firefighters found two buildings and the big rig engulfed in flames and immediately called in a second alarm.

A preliminary investigation has found that the big-rig was traveling north on Railroad Avenue when it struck two vehicles and then the building, which became engulfed in flames, according to Raman.

Police were looking into the possibility that a mechanical failure in the truck caused the crash.

Witnesses said the driver was honking and flashing his lights as he barreled down Railroad Avenue. Police believe at this point that there was some kind of mechanical failure with the truck that prevented him from stopping on the busy thoroughfare.

"It appears at this point at least that the driver of the truck tried to alert them," said Raman.

One of the cars the big rig hit was being driven by Marvin Tompkins Doldol. He said he could hear the driver trying to downshift and could smell the burning clutch.

"In my rear view mirror" Doldol explains, "I saw the truck coming down really fast and I heard him trying to shift down to brake and as soon as he passed and saw him really close he hit the van in front of him after he hit the van in front of him he came into my lane and he drove all the way straight and I was pushed onto the corner."

David Garner was on his way to work when his car was struck by the big rig. 

"He clipped me on the right-hand side, totaled the truck next to me and then went into the shopping center," said Garner.

Gardner believes the truck driver did everything he could to minimize the impact.

"He tried to somehow go between us. He did everything he could," said Gardner, who got choked up thinking about how close he came to serious injury. "It's almost like a second chance at life. I could have died today."

The building that the big-rig struck was unoccupied at the time. A second structure was also destroyed in the commercial area.

Railroad Avenue near Linscheid Drive remained closed into Monday evening while police investigated the fatal crash.