The California Highway Patrol said each crash seems to have been caused by drivers failing to slow down for stalled traffic in a construction zone.
"There's signs out here, everything is well posted for repaving of the roadway," CHP Officer Les Huot said. "But, there's signs for miles, and miles and miles, and all you need to do is just pay a little bit more attention."
The first crash claimed the life of a 31-year-old Oregon man. Zachary Huber, of Milwaukie, Ore., was driving a U-Haul with a car in tow around 6:30 p.m. on northbound I-5 when he apparently came up too quickly on slow or stalled traffic. Huber rear-ended a semitruck and likely died on impact, a CHP officer said.
Moments later, a pickup driver didn't slow soon enough to avoid backed up traffic on southbound I-5. That driver rolled their truck and suffered moderate injuries, the CHP said. That driver hasn't been publicly identified.
Around 11 p.m., three big rigs crashed in the same construction zone. Once again, traffic seemed to have stalled on the interstate, and a truck driver rear-ended another big rig. Both semitruck drivers tried to swerve off the road, but swerved together and crashed. Their trucks crashed into a third semitruck, the CHP said.
One of the truck drivers reportedly suffered severe burns over 75 percent of his body when the tractor-trailers caught fire. Their names haven't been released.