WASHINGTON COUNTY – The same uninsured 2008 white GMC pickup truck was involved in not one, but two separate Interstate 15 accidents Wednesday, requiring two separate tows and an impound and, ultimately, leading to the driver’s arrest.
On the scene of the second accident, Utah Highway Patrol Trooper Matthew Pratt said a call came into dispatch at 8:56 p.m. indicating that a motorist had “gone over a cliff” near mile marker 27 while traveling south on I-15.
The driver, in fact, had not gone over a cliff, but instead launched his truck across the median before being caught by a guardrail, which prevented his truck from traveling into the oncoming northbound traffic. It took a combination of responders from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, UHP, UDOT – Incident Management and Leeds Fire and Rescue to resolve and process the accident scene.
Associated Food Stores truck driver Brent Turner said he saw the entire accident unfold and immediately pulled to the side of the road to call for assistance.
“(The driver of the truck) was going southbound and then went off the shoulder and swerved to the left and went airborne through the median and ran into the (guardrail),” he said. “He was going pretty fast.”
Although the truck caught air and only the guardrail prevented it from entering oncoming traffic, Pratt said the 35-year-old driver, Armando Hector Leyva Jr., of California, was most likely driving below the speed limit at the time of the accident.
“Had he been doing the speed limit – 80 mph – the guardrail wouldn’t have contained him,” Pratt said.
Despite the possible danger to himself, Turner said, he was concerned there may have been children in the vehicle and so, under the advisement of a 911 operator, went to check on the passengers in the truck. When he got to the truck, he found Leyva in the vehicle by himself and in a slightly incoherent state, babbling and not making much sense. No other vehicles had been involved in the collision.
While hurrying to check on the driver, Turner said, he forgot to lock the air brake on his own vehicle, which caused the rig and the front trailer of two he was hauling to slide slightly off of the road. A tow truck had to be called in to pull the rig upright and back onto the highway.
When Pratt arrived on the scene, he said, it had been about seven minutes since the initial call came in to dispatch, and the driver of the truck, Leyva, had already been transported by Leeds Area Ambulance to Dixie Regional Medical Center. Pratt said he was under the impression that Leyva had suffered only minor injuries as a result of the crash. Later, during the investigation, it was confirmed that Leyva had suffered minor back injuries.
The mangled remnants of the truck Leyva had been driving, which was a company vehicle from his workplace in California and was uninsured, was hauled to the Moss Towing yard in Hurricane.
Upon further investigation, it was discovered that, when the accident occurred, Leyva had been driving home to California after coming to Utah to finish some cabinetry work for his employer.
This was not Leyva’s first accident of the day, the trooper said. At about 4 p.m. somewhere in Iron County, Leyva had been involved in another collision, for which he was cited for improper lane change, driving without insurance and driving on an out-of-state suspended or revoked license.
Pratt said Levya was told not to drive anymore but was not taken into custody at that time, because the truck had so much damage that officers didn’t believe it was operable. During the investigation into Leyva’s second accident, Pratt said, Leyva told him he had replaced two tires on the truck before continuing on his journey home.
At that time, he said, Leyva also admitted to driving under the influence of narcotic medications.
Leyva was taken into custody at the hospital and was booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility at 11:48 p.m. Wednesday, according to current bookings information. As of 11:50 a.m. Thursday, he was still in police custody.
For the second time Wednesday, Leyva was charged with improper lane change, a class C misdemeanor. He was also charged with three class B misdemeanors for driving without insurance for the second time in three years; driving on a suspended or revoked out-of-state license; and driving with a measurable controlled substance.
According to bookings information, a bondable bail has been set for Leyva in the amount of $2,770.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.
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