SOUTHERN UTAH — A 54-year-old man is in critical condition Tuesday following a three-vehicle collision on Interstate 15 near Leeds. After colliding with a rolled car resting in the middle of the Interstate, the man had exited his vehicle and was struck by an oncoming car.
The entire incident started at approximately 6:30 a.m., Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jake Hicks said, with a 33-year-old Cedar City man driving a 2007 Pontiac G6.
The man was travelling south on I-15 near milepost 23, just south of Leeds Exit 23, Hicks said. The man was in the left lane when he said another car started coming into his lane. He swerved to the left, lost control and hit the side concrete barrier.
After the man hit the concrete barrier, Hicks said, the Pontiac rolled onto its top and came to a stop in the left travel lane.
The man had his seat belt on, was fine and was still in his car after the rollover, Hicks said, when a 2003 gold Saturn Ion, driven by a 54-year-old Cedar City man, came upon the crash.
“The speed limit is 80 mph and it’s dark, so people typically don’t pay that close enough attention,” Hicks said. “You know, you don’t expect a car to be stuck in the road – it’s just unexpected – so, he sees it and it’s too late.”
The 54-year-old man hit his brakes before smashing into the Pontiac. The Saturn was totaled, Hicks said; however, the 54-year-old man also had his seat belt on at the time and was fine.
“Now, we’ve got two cars stuck in the fast lane,” Hicks said, “and the 54-year-old in the Saturn gets out of his car to see what’s going on – starts walking in the left emergency lane to see what’s happening, and while he’s doing that, the third car comes into the crash scene.”
The third car, a 1991 green Toyota Camry, was driven by a 21-year-old LaVerkin man. The 21-year-old decided to brake and go left to avoid other traffic to his right, Hicks said.
“He leaves a lot of skid marks – long skid marks coming into it, so he saw it, but he was braking as much as he could and goes into that left emergency lane,” Hicks said.
The 54-year-old man was hit by the right side of the Toyota before hitting the Toyota’s windshield.
“He (the 21-year-old) was going a lot slower but still hits the 54-year-old man at a good speed,” Hicks said.
“According to some witnesses,” Hicks continued, “after (the man) got hit, it launched him about 30 feet, and he flew through the air and then landed on the ground in the fast lane.”
While the 21-year-old also had his seat belt on and was uninjured, Hicks said, the 54-year-old man was in critical condition.
Intermountain Life Flight was initially launched and dispatched to the scene but was cancelled after medical personnel decided to transport the man via ambulance to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George.
Hicks called Tuesday’s crash a “a series of unfortunate events” that serves as an important safety reminder.
“The thing that people need to realize is, when they’re in a crash on the freeway,” Hicks said, “it’s important to do a couple things: either stay in your car with your seat belt on, or if you get out, you need to get somewhere else across the barrier. But you need to get off the freeway. You can’t stand around in the traffic; you’ll get hit.”
It was dark and unexpected, Hicks said, and that’s why the speed limit is also so important, especially at night. Hicks added that by the time a motorist’s headlights shine on a potential safety hazard in the roadway, drivers don’t have a lot of time to brake because they’re traveling so fast.
“If you’re going 80 mph, you’re traveling at 117 feet per second. And if it takes you a second to hit the brakes, you’ve already gone 117 feet before you even start to slow down,” he added. “By the time you see it or are able to recognize it and react and hit the brakes, you’ve already traveled a ton of feet.”
Hicks said all three vehicles were “severely damaged” in the crash and had to be towed from the scene.
“I don’t blame folks. I mean, you’re in a crash, you’re kind of rattled and you’ve got your adrenaline going, but it’s very important to get off the freeway if you’re in a crash like that, or at least stay in your car seat belted – that’s where your protection is at,” Hicks said. “When you start walking around outside your vehicle in traffic, that’s just so dangerous because there are other cars coming in at 80-70-90 mph – it’s a very critical time – so get out of the way or stay in your car.”
I-15 was closed for approximately two hours as a result of the crash. Traffic was diverted off southbound Exit 23.
The driver of the Pontiac was issued a citation for no car insurance, having an expired driver license and failing to maintain a single lane, Hicks said, noting that other citations involving the drivers may be pending.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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