Police: Semi driver slams into tow truck, wrecking occupied UHP patrol car

The scene of a crash involving a Utah Highway Patrol trooper's patrol car on Interstate 15 in Iron County, Utah, March 16, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Utah Department of Public Safety, Cedar City News / St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Several people escaped serious injury after police say a semitractor-trailer driver going too fast for the snowy road conditions on Interstate 15 caused a multivehicle crash in Iron County Thursday.

The scene of a crash involving a Utah Highway Patrol trooper’s patrol car on Interstate 15 in Iron County, Utah, March 16, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Utah Department of Public Safety, Cedar City News / St. George News

As a snowstorm passed through Southern Utah late Thursday night, Utah Highway Patrol troopers and Iron County Sheriff’s deputies were dispatched to multiple incidents along the interstate.

At around 11 p.m., trooper Daniel Nielson was dispatched to mile marker 73 on northbound I-15 on report of multiple rollovers in the area, including one involving two women and a man who were waiting outside their crashed vehicle while a tow truck was en route.

“The tow truck was taking longer than I thought, so I went down to check on them and the elderly females were starting to shiver, so I brought them up and put them in my patrol car,” Nielson said, noting that his car was parked off the road in the inside median.

Two wreckers showed up a short while later and parked next to Nielson’s patrol car to help recover the rolled vehicles.

As Nielson and the tow truck drivers were outside discussing how to get to the vehicles, he said they noticed drivers whizzing by the emergency vehicles in both inside and outside lanes without slowing down, despite the winter weather conditions.

As they were talking, Nielson said one of the tow truck drivers noticed a semi start to slide as it headed toward their vehicles in the inside lane.

“We saw the tractor and trailer start to go sideways,” Nielson said.

The scene of a crash involving a Utah Highway Patrol trooper’s patrol car on Interstate 15 in Iron County, Utah, March 16, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Utah Department of Public Safety, Cedar City News / St. George News

The semi’s trailer then hit one of the tow trucks, which slammed into the patrol car, Nielson said, causing the patrol car to spin around and come to rest pinned against the other tow truck.

“We got the ladies out of the car,” Nielson said. “They were both fine – bumps and bruises from getting banged around during everything.”

No one else was hurt, including the other man involved in the initial rollover who was waiting inside one of the tow trucks.

“Everybody ended up fine,” Nielson said.

Iron County Sheriff’s deputies arrived and closed the northbound lanes in the area of the crash until about 2:30 a.m. Friday while responders cleared the wreckage.

Nielson said the semi driver was going too fast for road conditions.

“He said he was doing about 70 mph, which is about what his truck will do in that area.

A semitractor’s trailer is ripped open following a crash on Interstate 15 in Iron County, Utah, March 16, 2018 | Photo courtesy of Utah Department of Public Safety, Cedar City News / St. George News

“As he got closer and he saw my lights in front of the tow truck, that’s when he started to slow down, and that’s when he lost control with his brakes on the ice.”

While everyone left the scene of the crash without being seriously hurt, Nielson said incidents like this can be avoided.

“People need to understand they can’t come through when (emergency or amber) lights are flashing during accidents ­– or even lights flashing period – just five miles under the speed limit and think that’s OK, especially if there’s a storm in the area and the roads are being plowed.”

“On that highway that night, 45 mph would have been plenty fast.”

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

Cedar City News reporter Jeff Richards contributed to this report.

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Email: jwitham@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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1 Comment

  • Mike P March 19, 2018 at 10:03 am

    Had to laugh when I read “On that highway that night, 45 mph would have been plenty fast.” Seriously, who’s ever seen a Trucker going a safe speed on an open highway?

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