Car crash erupts in flames inside Caldecott tunnel

OAKLAND, Calif. (KTVU) -- A vehicle collision erupted into a fireball early during the Monday morning commute inside an eastbound bore of the Caldecott Tunnel, forcing drivers to abandon their vehicles and scramble to safety, authorities said.

California Highway Patrol officer Clayton Nett said there were two accidents inside the eastbound Bore 1 beginning at around 6:20 a.m.

The first involved a vehicle rear-ending a stalled vehicle in the bore. As the CHP was clearing those two damaged vehicles out of the bore, a second crash occurred deeper in the tunnel.

As the officers raced back in to respond to the second crash, one of the vehicles involved exploded into flames.

Dozens of drivers were trapped in the stopped traffic.

"There was some confusion," Nett said. "There were people outside their cars…The smoke grew thicker…We removed people from the tunnel for their safety."

Nett said 20-30 people were evacuated from the smoke filled bore.

Aaron Baker was driving to work when he became trapped.

"There were a lot of people running to get out of the tunnel," he told KTVU Fox 2. "There was a lot of smoke. It looked like the flames were about six feet above the car."

Edgar Roach was also among those evacuated.

"When we saw the car on fire, we started to figure out what to do," he said. "We saw people getting out of their cars and starting to run…So we thought it was a good idea to get out of there."

Oakland firefighters arrived on the scene and had the flames extinguished at shortly after 7:30 a.m.

Roach, Baker and the others were able to return to their cars a short time later and they were backed out of the tunnel.

The bore remained closed until shortly before 11:30 a.m. to allow for an inspection of the damage and the removal of the burned cars.

Fortunately, there were no injuries reported, authorities said.