1 dead, 6 hospitalized following early-morning rollovers

Weather related rollovers early Saturday morning sent six people to the hospital and left a seventh person dead in Iron County, Utah, March 26, 2016 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

IRON COUNTY — A series of early Saturday-morning rollovers on Interstate 15 near the state Route 20 junction sent six people to the hospital to be treated for injuries and killed a female passenger in one vehicle. The woman who died was en route to Salt Lake City for her mother’s funeral.

Weather related rollovers early Saturday morning sent five people to the hospital and left a sixth dead in Iron County, Utah, March 26, 2016 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Weather related rollovers early Saturday morning sent six people to the hospital and left a sixth dead in Iron County, Utah, March 26, 2016 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

All three accidents occurred in a 17-minute span between 6:57 and 7:14 a.m., Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Ryan Bauer said. They took place within a 1-mile stretch of the interstate in the area of mileposts 94 and 95.

Low temperatures, combined with a fast-moving storm that left moisture on the road, caused black ice to form, he said, and although the storm had passed through already, the roads had not yet recovered.

UHP handled the crash that involved the fatally injured passenger at milepost 94, Bauer said, and Iron County Sheriff’s Office helped with the two subsequent rollovers near milepost 95.

“The roads were actually really good up until right there,” Bauer said, explaining that dry road conditions leading to the icy section played a large role in why the vehicles lost control. “So you had traffic coming in at freeway speeds suddenly hitting this ice, which is never a recipe for anything good.”

A fatal crash

The male driver of the black Chevy truck that rolled first was traveling north with his girlfriend and her adult daughter when they lost control on the ice, Bauer said.

Weather related rollovers early Saturday morning sent five people to the hospital and left a sixth dead in Iron County, Utah, March 26, 2016 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Weather related rollovers early Saturday morning sent six people to the hospital and left a seventh person dead in Iron County, Utah, March 26, 2016 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

“The truck went sideways, then into the median and then it rolled a couple of times,” he said, “and the two female passengers were both ejected from the truck.”

The driver’s girlfriend, who was from Mesquite, Nevada, was pronounced dead on the scene and her daughter, also from Mesquite, Nevada, was sent by Life Flight to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George.

The driver of the Chevy, who is from Hurricane, was transported to Beaver Valley Hospital in Beaver by Beaver Ambulance, Bauer said, where he was interviewed about the events leading up to the crash.

“We don’t suspect any speeding, impairment or anything like that,” he said, adding that it was just a tragic event that was the result of bad timing. “It’s Easter weekend too when a lot of people are out there doing family stuff.”

With weather like this, Bauer said, people just need to be aware of the road conditions and drive safely by slowing down, paying attention and buckling up.

“But really (they need to) put their seat belts on,” he said. “I mean, we would really love it if everybody would just put their seat belts on — that would help a lot.”

The seat belt factor

Iron County Sheriff’s Deputy Dan Raddatz said he was confident the only reason four passengers survived in one of the two rollovers he worked Saturday morning was because of their seat belts.

Weather related rollovers early Saturday morning sent five people to the hospital and left a sixth dead in Iron County, Utah, March 26, 2016 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Weather related rollovers early Saturday morning sent six people to the hospital and left a seventh dead in Iron County, Utah, March 26, 2016 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

“I can’t really speak for the other accident,” he said, “but you know, wearing seat belts was obviously a major contributing factor into the severity of the injuries.”

The four people in the Lincoln Navigator — a St. George man traveling with his daughter, son-in-law and grandson — were also on their way to a funeral in northern Utah, Raddatz said.

The Navigator rolled four times from the northbound lanes landing in the median, Raddatz said, but thanks to seat belts and full airbag deployment the injuries were much less severe than those in the Chevy truck that preceded it.

Each occupant sustained minor injuries, he said, adding that the daughter, who was driving, complained of a possible broken arm but wouldn’t let him close enough to evaluate it.

“They mostly had bumps and bruises,” he said, “but there were also some bloody noses.”

All four occupants of the Navigator were transported by Beaver Ambulance Service to Beaver Valley Hospital.

Weather related rollovers early Saturday morning sent five people to the hospital and left a sixth dead in Iron County, Utah, March 26, 2016 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News
Weather related rollovers early Saturday morning sent six people to the hospital and left a seventh person dead in Iron County, Utah, March 26, 2016 | Photo by Carin Miller, St. George News

The six passengers of the Chevy Suburban that rolled only a few yards away from the Navigator were all uninjured, Raddatz said, adding that once again, seat belts played a role in the severity of the outcome.

There were three adults and three children in the Suburban, he said. They were traveling north on I-15 heading to Colorado from California when the accident occurred.

“I had the children in the car with me most of the time keeping them warm,” Raddatz said.

The female driver of the Suburban reported to Raddatz that she was traveling at around 50 mph when she lost control and rolled once, also landing in the median. No airbags deployed.

When comparing the three accidents, Raddatz said, the most important lesson to learn in all of it is that seat belts save lives.

“Was that pickup bad? That pickup was bad,” he said, “but honestly, if you compare it to how bad that Lincoln Navigator was, they’re pretty similar — and again, I didn’t go down on that fatal at all — but I am assuming that’s the main difference, one had seat belts on, and the other didn’t.”

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Email: cmiller@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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