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Glendale motorist out on bail following freeway fire

Caltrans says repairs and cleanup to 134 and I-5 may exceed $250,000.

April 09, 2012|By Veronica Rocha, veronica.rocha@latimes.com
  • Firefighters deal with the aftermath of a crash on the 134 (Ventura) Freeway and I-5 on Saturday, April 7, 2012.
Firefighters deal with the aftermath of a crash on the… (Ross A. Benson /…)

A 25-year-old Glendale motorist is free on bail following a fiery crash Saturday night that shut down the Ventura (134) Freeway for hours, police said.

Prosecutors have yet to file charges against the motorist, Hakop Maghakyan, who was taken into custody about 1:45 a.m. Sunday by Glendale police. California Highway Patrol officials said Maghakyan was drunk and speeding when his car crashed into a tanker full of gasoline near the Golden State (5) Freeway.

Maghakyan was released about noon the same day after posting a $5,000 bail. He is expected to appear June 11 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Glendale Police Sgt. Tom Lorenz said.

The California Department of Transportation officials say it’s too early to discuss whether they will seek restitution from Maghakyan due to the CHP’s ongoing investigation into the crash, said Patrick Chandler, spokesman of the California Department of Transportation.

Witnesses reported seeing Maghakyan driving 80 to 90 mph in a 2010 Honda Accord about 11 p.m. before crashing into the 2003 Peterbilt tanker’s rear trailer on the freeway, said CHP spokesman Officer Ming-Yang Hsu.

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Maghakyan lost control of his vehicle and came to a stop on the freeway’s shoulder, according to the CHP.

The tanker, which was carrying about 8,600 gallons of gas, struck a guardrail, overturned and ignited into flames under the 134 freeway connector to the southbound Interstate 5.

The tanker driver, a 33-year-old Ontario man, Maghakyan and his passenger, a 26-year-old Tarzana woman, exited both vehicles and ran toward Zoo Drive. No injuries were reported in the crash.

But the massive fire prompted an immediate closure of the freeway’s east and westbound lanes, while Glendale, Los Angeles and county fire crews battled the blaze.

All lanes were eventually reopened Sunday after engineers deemed the highway safe for motorists, officials said.

Early estimates of the freeway damage were about $250,000, but that amount could likely increase throughout the repair process, Chandler said.

Crews would likely have to repair about 1,000 feet of guard rail, 1,000 feet of asphalt and portions of pavement on the freeway’s No. 3 lane, he said. They will also have to remove soot on the Interstate 5 overpass bridge.

Caltrans planned some closures this week, but Chandler said those repairs might be delayed due to a chance of showers tonight and later this week.

Repairs, he said, will be conducted similarly to the department’s routine maintenance closures on most highways.

“The closures will not be out of the ordinary,” Chandler said.

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