One of the most iconic structures in all of California is the Coronado Bridge that connects Coronado Island with mainland San Diego. Driving over the bridge can be a nerve-wracking experience, but a recent truck accident has turned the spotlight on another aspect of the bridge’s safety: whether or not the guardrails are strong enough to prevent vehicles or accident debris from falling on people below the bridge.
Chicano Park is a popular neighborhood park that lies underneath the bridge on the mainland side. On the recent afternoon of October 14, the driver of a GMC pickup control lost control of his truck and the vehicle crashed through the bridge’s guardrail. It fell onto a vendor pavilion in the park, killing four people and severely injuring the driver. Several days after the accident, the driver was arraigned for several alcohol-related driving violations.
Immediately after the accident, neighborhood leaders began demanding that the city of San Diego and the California Department of Transportation take steps to ensure the safety of people who use the park. The park has been in existence for over 40 years, and the Chicano Park Steering Committee has been demanding stronger barriers during most of this time. A Caltrans spokesperson said that the 34-inch concrete barrier met applicable engineering standards, but he also said that it will fully investigate the crashworthiness of the bridge’s barriers.
Establishing liability in this case may be difficult. The driver of the pickup truck may have been negligent in failing to maintain control of his vehicle, but what about the city or the state? Either entity may be liable if it failed to inspect the bridge or to replace barriers that were inadequate to prevent a vehicle from falling from the bridge. The investigation is expected to take several weeks, and its conclusion may only mark the beginning of efforts to assess liability for the four deaths.
Source: NBC Los Angeles, “Safety of Coronado Bridge Ramps in Question After Fatal Crash,” Samantha Tatro and Vanessa Herrera, Oct. 18, 2016