ST. GEORGE – A Cedar City man was arrested in connection with the crash on Interstate 15 that claimed two lives Saturday.
Dyllon Marc Mercado, 23, of Cedar City, was the driver of a Pontiac Grand Prix that struck the back of a slow-moving semitractor-trailer on northbound I-15 shortly before 4 a.m. Saturday.
According to a statement from the Utah Highway Patrol, the driver of the Grand Prix, later identified as Mercado, attempted to avoid the back of the trailer by swerving to the left, but it was too late.
“The Grand Prix struck the left side of the trailer and its steel rear bumper with the passenger side of the Grand Prix,” the report reads. “The impact from the trailer tore through the Grand Prix, killing the male front passenger and right rear passenger on impact.”
The two passengers killed in the crash were identified as Nigel J Chavez, 25, and Matthew Chavez, 26, both of Cedar City. Mercado was unharmed.
The semi and the Grand Prix continued traveling north after the impact for another mile before stopping on the right shoulder near milepost 35.5. Police were contacted by both drivers once they stopped.
An investigation by the UHP alleges alcohol was a factor in the crash and that Mercado was driving under the influence, according to the UHP statement and a probable cause statement sworn in support of the arrest.
A UHP trooper called to the scene was told by Washington County Sheriff’s deputies that Mercado smelled of alcohol and that he had admitted to drinking.
“I approached the driver of the vehicle and spoke to him.” the UHP trooper wrote in the statement. “I asked him if he had been drinking and he stated he had. I asked him how much alcohol he had consumed. He stated enough.”
The trooper put Mercado through some field sobriety tests which he ended up failing, according to the statement.
Mercado was subsequently arrested and informed of his rights. A breath test taken during a visit to the St. George Police Annex produced a blood-alcohol content over the legal limit.
Mercado was booked into the Washington County Purgatory Correctional Facility on two counts of third-degree felony automobile homicide and a misdemeanor for DUI. He has since posted bail.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement and court documents 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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