Truck Rams California Capitol

Firefighters extinguish flames at the front a tractor-trailer that crashed into the south entrance of the California State Capitol on Tuesday, Jan 16, 2001, in Sacramento, Calif. The driver of the truck died at the scene. AP

Investigators are looking into a bizarre attack on the California Capitol building, reports CBS News Correspondent John Blackstone.

A big rig driven by a mentally disturbed parolee with a grudge against Governor Davis crashed into the state Capitol in Sacramento and burst into flames late Tuesday night just as the Assembly was clearing out after an evening session.

The driver died, but no one else was hurt.

Witnesses said the single-trailer rig careened through downtown streets at high speeds before it smashed into the south portico below the Senate's second-floor chambers. The vehicle stopped just short of the Capitol's doors.

Witness Art Vailejo said: "I stood up and saw him take the stop sign and I told my friend, 'He's crazy. He's got to be going 65 miles an hour.' Five minutes lates, we heard the noise of the vehicle again. This time he must have been going 75 miles an hour. He went flying through, straight into the Capitol. I saw the truck bounce. The second time it bounced, it landed and it exploded."

"It was really scary," Assembly Speaker Robert Hertzberg said. "It's scary to see the Capitol looking like that."

"He came all the way down here blaring his horn," Assembly staffer Matt Z'Berg said.

The truck struck the building with a "humongous fireball effect," Z'Berg added.

The truck hit the opposite side of the building from where state legislators were meeting to deal with the state's growing energy crisis.

California Highway Patrol Capt. Dennis Williams, head of Capitol security, said authorities did not want to remove the truck before determining whether there was structural damage to the building.

The explosions were caused by diesel gas tanks and canned milk bursting into flames, fire Capt. Don Braziel said.

The California Highway Patrol evacuated the building shortly after the crash.

Stunned lawmakers rushed from the building and watched as firefighters fought the blaze.

"It's almost unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable," Assemblyman Carl Washington said.

Michael Fahn, a driver, said he didn't see the truck ram into the building but heard several explosions.

"I thought, 'My God, they are bombing the Capitol!'" he said.

The state Assembly had been meeting to consider legislation on California's power woes. The measure, which was approved, would allow the state to buy electricity from wholesalers and sell it to utilities at a reduced rate under long-term contracts.



©MMI Viacom Internet Services Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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