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Driver in San Francisco Bay Area highway collapse had multiple felony convictions

The case of an inexperienced truck driver with multiple felony convictions who passed a criminal background check and got clearance to drive the tanker who brought down one of Northern California's most traveled highways in a fiery blaze, has made city officials to call for a review of the rules.

Court records show that James Mosqueda, 51, was given a commercial trucker's license despite a criminal record that included convictions for heroin possession and burglary.

Mosqueda also cleared an FBI criminal history check and an intelligence review from the U.S. Transportation Security Administration to drive a tanker filled with hazardous materials despite regulations that can disqualify applicants with multiple convictions.

"It's reprehensible," said Assemblyman Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, California, who chairs both the Assembly Transportation Committee and the Joint Committee on Emergency Services and Homeland Security. "Someone with that record has no business driving hazardous materials on our highways."

The elevated section of highway that funnels traffic from the Bay Bridge to a number of key freeways was destroyed early Sunday after flames from the overturned gasoline truck caused part of that overpass to buckle and collapse onto a roadway below.

Free public transportation eased traffic one day after the fiery wreck, but Tuesday's return of regular-priced transit will be the real test for what lies ahead during the long repairs.

Tuesday morning rush-hour traffic moved slowly, but gridlock had yet to materialize. Transportation officials anticipate more severe delays in the afternoon when East Bay commuters returning home from San Francisco are forced to detour to avoid the collapsed overpass.

An initial investigation revealed that the truck may have been speeding, but drugs and alcohol were not suspected as factors in the crash, CHP Officer Trent Cross said.

Mosqueda had recently renewed his commercial driver's license and his driving record was free of any crashes or violations before Sunday, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

After the crash, Mosqueda wandered more than a mile (1.6 kilometer) through darkened streets in Oakland with second-degree burns to a gas station and hailed a cab to take him to the emergency room, according to police and the taxi driver.

While crews sifted through the wreckage, some scientists were studying linkages between the freeway collapse and how the World Trade Center came down on Sept. 11, 2001.

The structural failures appear similar, said David McCallen, division leader in nonproliferation, homeland and international security at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The steel supporting the overpass turned pliable after the gasoline-fed fire below reached temperatures up to 2,000 degrees (1,093 Celsius) - more than four times as hot as the hottest conventional home oven.

Crews finished hauling away charred debris Monday night and engineers prepared for reconstruction, which could take two to three months.

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