Preliminary reports indicate that a Berkeley garbage truck was involved in a traffic incident Monday. Image: Google Maps
Preliminary reports indicate that a Berkeley garbage truck was involved in a traffic incident Monday. Image: Google Maps

Update, Jan. 12, 11 a.m. The worker, identified as Johnny Tolliver, has died. Tolliver, who had worked for Berkeley for 25 years. The city lowered its flags to half-staff in his honor Tuesday. Read more on Berkeleyside.

Original story, 2:43 p.m. A city worker was taken to the hospital after a municipal garbage truck may have pinned him against a tree in the Berkeley Hills on Monday afternoon when its brakes went out, according to preliminary reports.

City spokesman Matthai Chakko said Monday at about 2 p.m. that the incident remains under investigation, and that he could only confirm that a worker was taken to the hospital. Chakko was not able to provide any additional details.

Berkeleyside reviewed scanner audio recordings to find out more. The information that follows is unconfirmed. This story will be updated if the city provides additional information.

The Berkeley Fire Department was dispatched early Monday afternoon to 90 Parnassus Road for a report of an individual who was initially pinned in place by what was later determined to be a city of Berkeley garbage truck. 

According to the recordings, as emergency workers responded, a doctor on the scene said the patient was “no longer pinned,” but was complaining of rib pain.

A local resident reported the accident to Berkeleyside on Twitter at about 12:40 p.m., and said the truck may have experienced brake failure, pinning a worker against a tree. Medics were on scene at that time.

“The truck was making its rounds when they lost control and rolled into the fenced yard, crushing trees and stopping before hitting the house,” the resident said. “It was really loud and sounded exactly like a giant truck plowing through a fence. The guys were yelling ‘help’ and so several of us ran outside. Lucky for them they crashed into a doctor’s yard.”

Fire Department officials determined that there had been no structural damage as a result of the incident, and called for a tow truck to remove the garbage truck from the block while paramedics took the injured man to the hospital.

“They’re going to need a big rig tow, and it’s not going to be an easy extrication out of where it is,” one firefighter reported over the scanner. Streets in the area are narrow and winding, and can be difficult for large vehicles to navigate. He described the vehicle as “well off the roadway.”

Some type of liquid, likely radiator or transmission fluid, leaked onto the roadway as a result of the crash. Firefighters called for an absorbent to clean it up, according to scanner transmissions.

A fire official also asked dispatchers to notify PG&E about one of its poles, which had been damaged during Monday’s incident, and called for a city Public Works supervisor to respond to the scene.

Neither the Berkeley Fire Department nor the Berkeley Police Department responded to a request for more information about this incident prior to publication.

Update, 4:15 p.m. Police released a brief statement about the traffic incident. Said Officer Jennifer Coats, police spokeswoman, “Berkeley Police Department is investigating the collision on Parnassus. Members of our Traffic Bureau are on scene trying to determine how the collision occurred. A City of Berkeley garbage truck was involved, with one of the workers injured and transported to the hospital.” She said investigators would likely be on the scene for some time.

Update, 5:15 p.m. Fire Department spokeswoman Interim Deputy Fire Chief Donna McCracken said by email at about 5:10 p.m. that BFD received a call regarding a city of Berkeley garbage truck in a yard of a home on Parnassus just before 12:20 p.m.: “No details are available yet regarding how the truck ended up in the front yard.” She said no structures were damaged, and confirmed that one city worker was taken to the hospital.

Have a question about a local public safety incident? Write to Photographs and videos are always appreciated. This story was updated after publication to include additional information from a citizen reporter.

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Emilie Raguso (former senior editor, news) joined Berkeleyside in 2012 and covered politics, public safety and development until her departure in 2022. In 2017, Emilie was named Journalist...