ST. GEORGE – Two early morning crashes on the Arizona stretch of Interstate 15 disrupted a cross-country move that was nearly at its end Tuesday.
Around 2:17 a.m., Arizona time, a 38-year-old woman from Columbus, Ohio, was southbound on I-15 in the area of milepost 22.5 when she was involved in a single vehicle collision, Sgt John Bottoms, of the Arizona Department of Safety, said.
“She doesn’t really know what happened,” Bottoms said. “The (responding) trooper believes, based on physical evidence on the roadway, that she fell asleep.”
The woman, who was traveling with two minor-aged children in the car, is believed to have drifted off the roadway, overcorrected and hit the guardrail along the roadside. The car’s airbags deployed and the car came to a stop in the left lane on a bridge over the Virgin River.
The woman and her children – who sustained minor injuries, mainly dumps and bruises, Bottoms said – got out of the car and were picked up by a motorist who had stopped to help. The motorist took them out of the gorge to a location where the woman was able to get cell phone reception.
She proceeded to call another family member while somebody else on the road called authorities about the crashed car left on the bridge that was blocking traffic.
The woman and her children were in the process of moving from Ohio to Las Vegas, Bottoms said.
While heading to the first crash, the responding trooper was contacted around 3:25 a.m. concerning “a vehicle traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of I-15 from the area of the Nevada state line,” Bottoms said.
Multiple calls came in from southbound motorists reporting on the wrong-way driver. Witnesses added they observed the driver, a male, to be on a cell phone at the time.
The driver had made a U-turn on I-15, not once, but at least three times while on the phone, according to the witnesses.
While going north in the southbound lanes, the wrong-way driver came out of a curve and faced an oncoming truck. In an attempt to avoid the truck the car ended up skidding off the roadway around milepost 5 and into the median where he crashed.
“We found out the driver of that vehicle – an unlicensed 16-year-old male from Columbus, Ohio – was the son of the lady who was involved in the collision at the top of the gorge,” Bottoms said.
The boy told Arizona troopers that he had panicked once his mother called saying she had been in a crash, causing him to turn around. He made it about five miles going the wrong way before going off the road.
Like the rest of his family, the boy sustained minor injuries. As a precautionary measure the family was taken to Mesa View Regional Hospital in Mesquite, Nevada, for evaluation. They were transported by an ambulance with the Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District.
They were released soon after.
“We’re lucky, very lucky that we didn’t have a far more serious or fatal accident … We’re fortunate (the boy) didn’t hit someone head-on,” Bottoms said.
The mother was issued citations for failing to control her vehicle to avoid a collision and allowing an unauthorized and unlicensed teen to drive. The 16-year-old was also cited for driving without a license.
Both vehicles were towed from the scene.
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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