UPDATED: Semi rollover sends 2 trailers down 80-foot ravine on I-15

Trailers roll down 80-foot ravine during rollover on I-15 early Thursday morning, Mohave County, Arizona, Aug. 3, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District, St. George

Update August 5, 9:15 p.m. Additional information from the crash investigation is included at the bottom of this report. 

ST. GEORGE — A semitractor-trailer rolled off of Interstate 15 Thursday morning, lodging the cab into the guardrail and sending its double trailers down a steep ravine. Both southbound lanes were closed for several hours as wreckers, road crews and emergency personnel worked to clear the roadway.

Cab becomes lodged into guardrail when semi rolls on I-15 near mile marker 4 Thursday, Mohave County, Arizona, Aug. 3, 2017 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District, St. George

Shortly after 2 a.m. MST officers and emergency responders were dispatched to a rollover on Interstate 15 southbound near mile marker 4 in Arizona that involved a semitractor-trailer pulling double trailers that went off the roadway.

“We were returning to the station when the call went out so we arrived on scene within 30 seconds of the page,” Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District Captain Debbie Gates said.

Upon arrival responders found the semi off the right shoulder of the interstate with the cab of the truck stuck on the guardrail and both trailers sitting at the bottom of an 80-foot ravine, Gates said.

The driver was already out of the truck when responders arrived and told the captain that another semi driver who witnessed the rollover stopped and helped him out of the truck right before emergency vehicles arrived.

The driver of the rolled semi told Gates, she said, that as he was heading south on the interstate he began experiencing steering problems and was unable to negotiate a curve in the road as he approached mile marker 4.

The truck veered to the right and struck the guardrail, sliding alongside it for several feet before both trailers went over the barrier. The double trailer then became detached from the cab and rolled down the ravine, pulling the cab onto its side and wedging it into the guardrail partially hanging off of the cliff.

The cab was hanging over the edge but did not actually go down into the ravine because of the guardrail,” Gates said.

The truck was hauling “fly ash powder” when the rollover occurred, a nontoxic material that did not require a hazardous materials cleanup, Gates said.

Shortly before 5:30 a.m., both southbound lanes of the interstate were closed once a wrecker and the emergency crew from the Arizona Department of Transportation arrived to dislodge the cab of the truck from the guardrail and pull the trailers up from the ravine.

Wrecker and Arizona Department of Transportation crews retrieve trailers after semi rolls on I-15 Thursday, Mohave County, Arizona, Aug. 3, 2017 | Photo courtesy of ADOT, St. George News

The driver sustained minor injuries during the crash but declined transport and was treated at the scene by EMTs. He was wearing his seat belt at the time of the crash.

Gate said the driver told responders when they arrived, “Thank God for seat belts.”

Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District, Arizona Highway Patrol and the Arizona Department of Transportation responded and assisted with the scene.

Update: The investigation into the crash revealed that the mounting bracket on the driver’s side leaf spring broke, causing the axle to shift, causing the crash, according to the Fire District’s report completed by the incident commander after the crash. The report includes information from first responders, officers and the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Additionally, the shifting of the axle caused a change in the control of the vehicle and, according to the driver’s statements at the scene, that loss was complete. He told responders that he continued tapping on his brakes to slow the truck’s speed, but had no control over the steering so, as the road curved, the semi continued straight ahead until it struck the guardrail.

ADOT pulled the wreckage up from the ravine, towed the two trailers and the cab of the semitractor-trailer away from the roadway and cleared debris that was scattered along the interstate for more than 100 yards. Both southbound lanes were closed for “an extended period of time,” according to the report, but there is no indication of whether that closure was intermittent or continual.

According to the report, the No. 2 lane of I-15 was closed to begin repairs on the 300 feet of guardrail that was damaged during the crash, a closure that was reported again on Friday as repairs were completed.

Responders arrived at the scene shortly after 2 a.m. MST to find the cab of the semitractor-trailer wedged against the guardrail, with the rear of the cab hanging over the side of the cliff and the tires in the air. Initial reports indicated that both trailers became detached during the crash and came to rest near the bottom of the canyon. With additional light available at the scene, it was later determined that one of the trailers rolled to the bottom of the canyon while the other remained attached to the cab that was hanging over the edge of the cliff.

This report is based on statements from police or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

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  • comments August 3, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    Accidents like this are caused by big rigs running too slow. 80mph is too slow to be a safe speed, esp for a double or triple trailer. At the very least it should be 85mph, because these higher speeds are MUCH MUCH safe for big rigs, and 90 would be even safer. The faster speeds are ALWAYS safer for big triple trailer haulers. The science proves it– FASTER SPEEDS ARE ALWAYS SAFER. Let’s get this 80mph changed to 85 or, better yet, 90mph ASAP!

  • utahdiablo August 3, 2017 at 9:38 pm

    Hmmmm….hope whatever was so important on the cell phone or changing the radio at 2am was worth the crash….easy to check the truck for “Steering Problems” with the AHP crew investigating the crash scene on this late model semi

  • mater August 5, 2017 at 2:19 am

    Wow did you even respond to the scene or just reporting here say truck took out nearly 700 feet of guardrail one trailer fetched and slid down the 65-70 degree embankment the other still attached to the truck came to rest hang down the embankment while the tractor was on the outside of the rail on fairly level ground the accident was on a straight stretch and was caused by a front steer tire blowing out . One lane was open during the recovery with the exception of when maneuvering the wreckers which lasted about a minute each and was spread out as needed.get the facts

    • Cody Blowers August 5, 2017 at 10:01 pm

      Hello Mater,

      Thank you very much for commenting on the story, and for taking the time to do so. The story has been updated and addresses many of the issues you mentioned, and again I appreciate your interest in the story. Cody Blowers

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