Driver killed, tangelos spilled as California citrus truck crashes off Georgia highway

A truck driver hauling citrus from California died in an early morning crash on Interstate 16 Friday.

Shortly after 5 a.m., 22-year-old Sukhdeep Singh sideswiped a disabled tractor-trailer on the right shoulder near mile marker 45 in Laurens County, Georgia State Patrol Trooper SFC Mackay Bloodworth said.

The 18-wheeler loaded with Blue Goose Minneola tangelos out of Delano, California, went off the right side of the highway into a ditch and overturned, slamming into an oak tree and nearly obliterating the cab.

"It appears that the truck was already overturned or was in the process of overturning and the tree caused extensive damage to the cab of the truck," Bloodworth said.

Singh, of Fairfield, California, was wearing a seatbelt, but he did not survive the damage to the truck. Laurens County Coroner Richard Stanley III pronounced him dead at the scene.

The driver of the other 18-wheeler had mechanical trouble and had been parked on the shoulder since about 8 p.m. Thursday, Bloodworth said. He was not hurt.

The trailer loaded with boxes of fruit ripped open, scattering fragrant, bright orange tangelos along the side of the road.

The cargo was bound for Bloomingdale near Savannah, Robinson said.

Coordinated Highway Assistance & Maintenance Program emergency crews, or CHAMP, put out orange barrels and lighted signs to warn motorists of the upcoming accident just west of the Dublin exits.

C&C Towing Co. owner Casey Clark brought out his new 50-ton rotator, a crane-like machine, to hoist up the wreckage and mangled cab.

"It was tangled in the woods pretty bad so we had to have all kinds of crews out here, chainsaw crews, rotator wrecker and recovery lifts," Clark said as his workers picked up debris along the side of the road.

The recovery process took nearly 12 hours for the truck to be cleared and the boxes of fruit loaded into other trucks to be carted off.

"Every wreck is different. It just takes time," Clark said.

The Georgia State Patrol is investigating the crash, but Bloodworth did not think the morning's gusty winds were a factor.