Snow, ice lead to 2 deadly crashes on 2 Utah interstates

A green Ford Escort is sent under the trailer of a Fed Ex semitractor-trailer early Thursday morning after sliding on icy roads in Box Elder County, Utah, Feb. 23, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Highway Patrol, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two people died in separate crashes nearly 7 hours apart on two of Utah’s heavily traveled interstate highways, the Utah Highway Patrol said in statements released Thursday.

Semitractor-trailer caught fire after a crash with another semi tore open the second tank of the double tanker and caught fire, killing the driver Wednesday night near Park City, Utah, Feb 22, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Highway Patrol, St. George News

The first incident, reported Wednesday at 10:30 p.m., sent officers and emergency personnel to a crash on Interstate 80 near Park City involving a semitruck pulling double-tankers full of crude oil and a semitractor-trailer.

Officers arrived to find one semi fully engulfed in flames and the driver, 67-year-old Wendell Lewis from Maricopa, Ariz., dead inside the burned out cab of the truck, UHP Sgt. Todd Royce said in a statement.

Troopers investigating the crash determined that the semi double-tanker was heading west on I-80. The driver, who was traveling near mile post 139 in the right-hand lane, approached a second semi that was either slowing or stopped due to the snowy road conditions.

Several vehicles were going around the second semi by using the left-hand lane, which the semi double-tanker driver also tried to do. As he pulled into the left lane and before he could complete the pass, the second semi rolled back and its trailer tore a hole in the second tank of the double-tanker truck.

Crude oil began spilling from the breach and ignited a fire that would destroy both tanks and burn through the cab of the second semi. The driver of the second semi was found dead inside the cab.

I-80 was completely closed for more than 11 hours to allow firefighters and emergency personnel to extinguish the fire and clear debris. The interstate was reopened for traffic at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

I-80 was completely closed for more than 11 hours to allow emergency personnel to tend to a semi truck fire that killed the driver near Park City, Utah, Feb 22, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Highway Patrol, St. George News

The second crash occurred on Interstate 15  near mile post 355 shortly after 5 a.m. Thursday in Box Elder County. Austin L. Taylor, 28 of Clarkston, Utah, died after losing control of his vehicle on the icy roadway.

Troopers in Box Elder County responded to the crash involving a 1995 green Ford Escort driven by Taylor and a FedEx semitractor-trailer pulling a single trailer, the UHP said in a statement.

An investigation showed that when Taylor lost control of his vehicle, it spun off the roadway onto the right shoulder where it hit the cable barrier before spinning back onto the road where it was T-boned by the southbound Fed Ex truck.

The impact with the semi sent the Escort into the concrete median. The momentum continued with the Escort spinning back toward the Fed Ex truck. Taylor was fatally injured when his vehicle slammed into and went under the Fed Ex truck.

Roadway deaths

Nationally, about 1 in 10 roadway deaths involve a large truck, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety report released in Nov. 2016.

The report also shows that a total of 3,852 people died in large truck crashes in 2015. Sixteen percent of these deaths were truck occupants, 69 percent were occupants of cars and other passenger vehicles.

Heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers recorded 745 fatal injuries, the most of any occupation, accounting for 26 percent of all fatal work injuries in 2015.

This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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8 Comments

  • DRT February 23, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    I have no quarrel with the statistics posted here. But what I do have a problem with, is how everyone seems to think that all these accidents are the fault of the truck driver.
    How about, just once, somebody in the media would make a factual study of how many of these accidents are caused by the truck driver. It would surprise most people to learn that the trucker caused crashes are in the great minority.
    But the fact is that if a big truck is involved in a crash, it is far more likely that people will die, than if a crash just involves two cars.
    People hate trucks. They are big, they are slow, they are always in the way. But
    give them a chance, and you will find the majority of truckers are trying their best to stay out of the way, while still getting their jobs done.
    Think about life without trucks! Think about trucks when your grocery store’s shelves are empty! Think about them when the stores cannot get supplies, because there are no trucks available to carry the goods.
    Think about them when you can no longer drive your car, because gas stations can’t get a supply of gasoline. Think about the millions of things in this country that we take for granted everyday. How would we get them, if trucks didn’t bring them.

    • comments February 24, 2017 at 11:37 am

      The very worst truckers I’ve seen have been ‘short haul’ or local truckers operating in the state. Seen them tailgating on I-15 going over 80mph with a full load. Long haul truckers are often very good just bc of experience, but its not a universal rule

  • .... February 24, 2017 at 1:36 am

    It wouldn’t effect me any I don’t have to work for a living…..

    • Real Life February 24, 2017 at 6:47 am

      To bad sitting around trolling the local internet news site doesn’t qualify. Perhaps setting your alarm and getting up to find a job could put you back on your feet.

      • Real Life February 24, 2017 at 6:48 am

        Too.

        • .... February 24, 2017 at 8:49 am

          Well you better get some rest you must be exhausted after having a thought. and then find a job and you wont be trolling St George news all day

  • Mean Momma February 24, 2017 at 6:42 am

    I don’t see anywhere in this article where it says anything about it being the semi drivers fault or even implying that.

    • DRT February 24, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      Um sorry, guess I wasn’t making myself clear. I was not posting about this article, as far as the two accidents that were covered. Although, there certainly was a trucker at fault in the first accident posted.
      What I was referring to, is the constant misconception of the media in general, that it is always the truckers fault. That is totally false, but most of the media, (And I’m NOT speaking of St. George News, when I say this,) are after sensationalism, and it sounds more sensational to have headlines that scream “ANOTHER TRUCK INVOLVED IN FATAL CRASH” or words to that effect. Posted in such a manner that just glancing at it, you figure it is the trucker’s fault.
      And then you have the shyster lawyers that advertise on TV about “if you are involved in an accident with a big truck, we will get you money. Lots and lots of money.”
      I’m going to get off my soap box here, as I could literally fill pages and pages in citing examples of this.

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