- Associated Press - Thursday, July 10, 2014

LOS GATOS, Calif. (AP) - A major part of a San Francisco Bay Area highway was shut down for several hours Thursday after a morning big rig crash left one driver dead and at least seven others injured, authorities said.

The chain-reaction crash involving nearly a dozen vehicles occurred on northbound state Route 17 in Los Gatos shortly before 8 a.m., the California Highway Patrol said.

The heavily used highway connects Silicon Valley to nearby Santa Cruz.

A tractor-trailer filled with dirt was traveling northbound when it jackknifed and struck the other vehicles, causing one driver to be ejected.

That driver, a 26-year-old man from Santa Cruz, died at the scene, authorities said. Another driver was hospitalized and was listed in critical condition.

One driver, Therese Mohr of Aptos, told KGO-TV that the chain-reaction crash struck her Prius.

“It hit me, and it forced me to run into the center-divide and I got hit again,” Mohr said. “But that was all it was. My car got hurt and not me.”

Lt. Scott Loetscher told reporters that the big rig’s driver said his brakes started smoking as he approached a downhill grade.

“He experienced some brake fade coming down a 6 percent grade, approximately. (He) was unable to control his speed, at which time he started hitting vehicles and the guardrail,” Loetscher said.

All northbound lanes of the highway were shut down after the crash as traffic was redirected. By midday, authorities used the highway’s southbound lanes to direct traffic in both directions.

All lanes were reopened to traffic around 5:30 p.m.

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