Helicopter and two ambulances at the crash scene
A helicopter and two ambulances at the scene of the crash on Interstate 15. Courtesy North County Fire Protection District

Firefighters rescued a 31-year-old man from his crumpled and burning van Thursday morning after the motorist slammed into the back of a semi truck on Interstate 15 in Fallbrook, authorities said.

The crash, involving a 2017 Chevrolet van and a semi truck, was reported around 5:10 a.m. on northbound Interstate 15 near Mission Road, California Highway Patrol Officer Mark Latulippe said.

A man behind the wheel of the semi truck was heading up a hill in the far right lane with the hazard lights on when the 31-year-old man driving the van slammed into the back of the big rig, he said.

The van driver later told an officer that he might have dozed off because he remembered driving in the lane to the left of the semi truck, then all of a sudden the truck was right in front of him, Latulippe said.

The van driver was trapped inside his vehicle, which had major front end damage and caught fire following the crash, said North County Fire Protection District Public Information Officer Richard Berry said.

Crews responded to the scene, extinguished the fire and freed the man from the wreckage by 5:55 a.m., Berry said.

The van driver was taken by Mercy Air helicopter to Palomar Hospital with major injuries, Latulippe said.

The semi truck driver was uninjured in the crash.

CHP officers shut down all northbound lanes to land the helicopter on the freeway twice, once to drop off a doctor and nurse and again to load the van driver into the aircraft, Latulippe said. Two lanes were reopened by 6:15 a.m. and the remaining lanes were reopened by 6:50 a.m.

–City News Service