Northbound I-5 was backed up for miles Sunday after a semi-truck rolled over about five miles south of Ashland, near milepost 10. The driver was pinned inside and had to be airlifted from the scene. [ODOT PHOTO]

Semi-truck rolled over on I-5, driver airlifted

A semi-truck rolled over on Interstate 5 near mile marker 10 south of Ashland around 10:50 a.m. Sunday, pinning the driver's arm and leg in the cab for about a half-hour and shutting the freeway down for over an hour.

The male driver, who had a tourniquet applied by a doctor who stopped to render assistance, was airlifted to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center, though his condition and name were not released Sunday by Oregon State Police.

Motorists described the semi's brakes as being on fire before the accident, making it difficult for the driver to maneuver through the curves, according to Battalion Chief Matt Freiheit of Ashland Fire & Rescue.

"When the semi rolled, everything came to a grinding halt and people stopped to help the driver," Freiheit said.

Bystanders broke out the front window of the truck to render assistance until fire crews arrived.

At first, Freiheit thought it might be necessary to use an inflatable bag that lifts heavy objects to free the driver's arm and leg, but ultimately firefighters extricated the driver at 11:25 a.m. before the device was brought up the hill. Freiheit described the driver as being in his late 50s.

He said the first call came in at 10:53 a.m., and engines from both Ashland fire and Fire District No. 5 arrived at 11:03 a.m. Ashland fire sent an engine, a rescue vehicle and the battalion chief's vehicle, and Fire District No. 5 sent two engines.

The semi blocked two lanes of travel for about two hours and was lying on its side, the trailer ripped open. A small portion of the trailer straddled the divider between the northbound and southbound sides of the freeway. Once the trailer was pushed into the slow lane, vehicles were routed over to the fast lane on the northbound side.

Freiheit said the truck was filled with cleaning supplies, including Scrubbing Bubbles, which spilled over into the southbound lanes, also blocking traffic.

"Everything stopped," Freiheit said. "A lot of bystanders started clearing the cans out of the roadway."

No other vehicles were involved in the accident, possibly because other motorists noticed the semi was in trouble, Freiheit said.

One lane of northbound I-5 was still closed five hours after the accident Sunday, and ODOT warned drivers to expect major delays. Traffic was backed up more than four miles hours after the crash. Fuel and oil from the truck also spilled in the northbound lanes.

Freiheit said it sometimes takes until the next day to clear the freeway after a major accident.

Brake fires are a common occurrence as big trucks come down the Siskiyou Summit, the highest pass on Interstate 5.

"About two months ago, a truck parked near Rite Aid (in Ashland), and the brakes burst into flames," Freiheit said.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on

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