Victim pinned in wrecked SUV on Highway 43 at Panama Lane



A Taft man was critically inured in an early morning crash on Highway 43 early Friday morning.

The victim, Lance Stephens, 35, was trapped in the wreckage of his SUV for an hour before rescuers could free him.

The California Highway Patrol said fog may have been a major factor in the 4 a.m. crash, which blocked traffic on Highway 43 and Panama lane for several hours.

According to the CHP, a Kenworth tractor pulling a flatbed trailer had stopped on Highway 43 and then backed up onto Panama Lane.

Stephens was driving his 2001 Ford Escape northbound on the state highway when he saw the truck and swerved to the right to avoid it but struck the left rear of the trailer.

Stephens was taken to Kern Medical for treatment of major injuries after a lengthy extrication by Kern County firefighters.

The truck driver, Zachary Thiel, 25, of Omaha, Neb., was not injured.