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Northridge at 20: Truck driver who escaped collapse recalls his near miss

Ervin "Nick" Nichols has been a truck driver for 51 years, driving mostly from from Oregon to Southern California. In 1994 he was on I-5 near the 14 Freeway when the Northridge Earthquake hit. The quake collapsed the road in front and behind Nichols' truck leaving him stranded on the overpass.
Ken Scarboro/KPCC

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Ervin "Nick" Nichols was driving a truck south along the 5 Freeway when the Northridge Earthquake hit 20 years ago, causing a section of bridge to drop out in front of his rig. He barely managed to stop, mere inches from a more than 70 foot drop.

Officer Clarence Wayne Dean wasn’t as fortunate. He plunged to his death from a collapse in the interchange that now bears his name as a memorial.

Despite their drastically different outcomes that day, the men shared many similarities. Both were in their late-40s, both loved driving and both became instant icons of the 6.7 magnitude earthquake, their images broadcast across national news. KPCC's Jed Kim reports.