Linda Poon is an assistant editor at CityLab covering science and urban technology, including smart cities and climate change. She previously covered global health and development for NPR’s Goats and Soda blog.
What are the chances that three trucks carrying egg, ham, and cheese all converge on the same highway?
The headlines from last week read like articles from The Onion. “Cold cut collision: Deli meat truck crashes into bread truck,” CNN reported.
But you can’t make this stuff up. The collision left a massive spill of wasted potential—for a gigantic sandwich, that is. (No injuries were reported.)
Truck spills aren’t so uncommon. Atlas Obscura counted dozens of instances in this year alone. Everything from frozen turkey to angry bees to potatoes—lots and lots of potatoes—have scattered across highways, leaving huge messes for clean-up crews and inspiring a buffet of puns.
These things happen. Yet, there’s something special about a meat truck colliding with a bread truck. The Huffington Post cheekily described it as a “sandwich love story.” Every so often, the stars align and not one but two—even three—trucks collide, serendipitously spilling out a combination of food and other goods so perfectly matched that it seems like fate brought them together.
Recipes for a disastrous party
In March, the stars aligned to bring together what NBC News describes as “the stuff that couch potatoes' dreams are made of.” A tractor trailer carrying Busch beer swerved into a truck carrying Frito-Lay products, spilling chips and beer all over a roadway in Melbourne, Florida.
"That's like a Super Bowl commercial right there,” a spokesperson for the Florida Highway Patrol told NBC News. Lanes were closed for nearly four hours as a clean-up crew swept away the soggy mess.
Then there was the 2012 crash involving a truck hauling onions and another carrying meat after one of the drivers dozed off. In 2009, beer spilled onto a highway in Utah just a few miles from where hamburger patties from an overturned truck clogged another roadway two hours earlier.
Honey roasted chicken, fresh off the highway
In a crash last February in Southern California, a truck full of bees collided with a truck carrying frozen chicken, causing officials to reroute commuters around the scene.
The story doesn’t end there. The rig carrying poultry burst into flame upon impact, resulting in char-roasted chicken strewn all over the road while the bees buzzed overhead.
The perfect omelet
One truck was from Tyson, carrying eggs. The other truck was from Smithfield Hams. “Perfect any way we slice it,” it read across the side. The two rigs crashed back in May near a gas station in South Carolina, nearly cutting the second truck in half and sending one driver to the hospital with minor injuries. It would have been a recipe for the perfect giant omelet—except that the ham truck was empty and no eggs seemed to spill out onto the street.
That collision had nothing on the one that took place two years ago in Monteagle, Tennessee. It involved three trucks carrying eggs, ham, and cheese. Chattanooga Times laid out the chain of events:
According to officials on the scene, the first truck overturned after its axle snapped, spilling thousands of eggs all over the roadway.
The truck that caused the second accident contained pallets of cheese, according to an eyewitness. And the truck that was hit while parked contained boxes of meat, with an estimated value of $3 million, according to the driver.
But delicious as it may sound, it produced a smell you’d probably not want to wake up to. Witnesses described the scent of the three-ingredient-combo as “extremely unpleasant.”