Big rig crash blocks Highway 99 offramp in Merced County

A man from Brooklyn, N.Y., crashed his big rig vehicle in Merced County about 4:35 a.m. Thursday, the California Highway Patrol reported.

The 62-year-old driver, Ireneusz Czajkowski, was driving a white 2002 Freightliner tractor-trailer northbound on south Highway 99. The driver told the CHP he was just north of Childs Avenue when he spotted a small sedan driving slowly in front of him.

Czajkowski tried putting on his brakes but lost control of the trailer and hit the center divider, said Officer Jason Schoonhoven. The vehicle went through the shrubs and metal guardrail of the center divider, spinning out of control across the southbound lanes of Highway 99.

The vehicle stopped in a position that blocked the second lane of the highway and the Childs Avenue offramp, Schoonhoven said. The trailer sustained moderate front-end damage, but the driver was not injured.

Czajkowski’s passenger, 59-year-old Inessa Czajkowski, was also not injured.

Alcohol or drugs do not appear to be a factor in the crash, Schoonhoven said. The CHP warned drivers to slow down and increase their distance from cars in front of them, especially when driving on wet roadways.