The SpaceX rocket launch last Friday captivated a huge, wide-eyed audience on earth, whether viewers caught the sight on the ground in California or by watching on social media.
But at least a few rocket viewers — these ones driving on the 10 Freeway in Banning, Calif., during the launch — should have been paying more attention to the road than to the out-of-this-world spectacle. One car’s dash cam footage captured a three-car accident the launch appears to have caused on the evening of Dec. 22 on that stretch of road east of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times reports.
“Wow, look at that thing,” a man can be heard saying on the dash cam video as the rocket appears in the darkening sky. “That’s a rocket, man.”
In front of the vehicle, the busy highway is full of cars and trucks. As the launch draws more attention, more and more red brake lights start to pop up on the road, with motorists slowing down to take in the spectacle, the video shows.
But not everyone slowed down at the same rate, or paid attention to what those in front of them were doing. Just moments after the launch became visible, three cars on the highway in front of the dash cam get into a grisly chain of collisions, the video posted on YouTube shows.
“This guy is not paying attention, man,” the man in the car can be heard saying, as he navigates into the far right lane to avoid getting in a pile-up.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket had been launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base north of Los Angeles at 5:27 p.m. that night, the Tribune in San Luis Obsispo, Calif., reports.
The launch sent 10 communications satellites — each about the size of a Mini Cooper — into space for the commercial Iridium Next constellation.
“For those of you live who in Southern California, maybe as far as Arizona, Twitter has just exploded with a lot of pictures from people who saw what they call the twilight effect,” SpaceX announcer John Insprucker said on a webcast of the rocket launch, according to the Tribune. “The contrail of the first and second stages forming beautiful images in the sky, lit by the moon as well as the exhaust of the Falcon engines.”