Witness Recounts Deadly Wrong-Way Crash on I-80

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A witness to Tuesday morning's I-80 wrong-way crash spoke to FOX40 about the horrific scene.

Just after midnight on Tuesday, Daryl Cook of North Highlands was driving to work on westbound I-80.

As he was approaching the Madison exit, he saw a swarm of police lights. Suddenly, he saw what he called an "explosion."

"I went running over there," Cook said. "And they told me more or less to get back. I said 'I'm not going to do that. I'm going to help you guys.'"

California Highway Patrol believes the driver of the Ford F-150 got on I-80 westbound using the Watt exit offramp and drove the wrong way toward Madison.

That is where the driver slammed into a Lexus sedan, killing 25-year-old Zahid Arshad, of South San Francisco, and 24-year-old Nicholas Sharma, of Hayward.

When Cook arrived, he said the two men in the Lexus had already died, so he helped officers try to get the driver of the truck out of the flaming car. But it was too late.

"We tried to get them out for about a minute," Cook said, tearing up. "But the flames were just too bad. We stayed until the last second, and we took like three or four steps back and the whole car was on fire. There was nothing we could do."

The driver of the truck burned to death.

Transportation experts said they are doing everything they can to prevent such accidents in the future.

"We definitely want to talk about the Sacramento area, where we unfortunately experienced three in a very short amount of time," Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said. "But we will be looking at something that can be highlighted and potentially implemented in the entire state."

Caltrans is working with law enforcement and legislators on a pilot program, focusing to decrease the number of wrong-way incidents.

"If I can use a sign with red blinking light that gets one person's attention and they don't go up that ramp the wrong way I will do it. If there are other measures that we need to take to try to prevent that we need to evaluate that," Dougherty said.

Caltrans is studying what has worked in other states, like Texas, where better signage, motion activated illuminated signals, and emergency tones for law enforcement, have cut down on the number of wrong way crashes.

"If there are some good ideas out there that have been tested and seem to be effective, we will try though we may also try our own and share our notes with other states," Dougherty said.

No date or place has been set for the state's pilot program. However, Dougherty said his department is evaluating all options.

"I want to do it sooner rather than later because I want to avoid any other tragedies and do everything we can do to try to better warn drivers not to get on the freeway the wrong way," Dougherty said.

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