ST. GEORGE — While attempting to pass a semitractor hauling gasoline through the Virgin River Gorge Friday afternoon, a man driving a Lexus lost control his vehicle and crashed into and under one of the gasoline tankers.
The incident occurred around 2 p.m. and resulted in southbound Interstate 15 through Arizona being partially and then completely shut down at milepost 22 until around 5:15 p.m., according to traffic alerts from the Arizona Department of Transportation.
Responding to the scene were troopers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety and a fire crew from the Beaver Dam-Littlefield Fire District.
Fire Chief Jeff Hunt said the semitractor had been hauling thousands of pounds of gasoline in its two tanker-trailers. The Lexus slammed into the first one and partly slid underneath it, crashing into the back of the semitractor as well.
The driver was allegedly speeding when he lost control of his car, Hunt said.
While the passenger side of the Lexus was demolished, Hunt said the driver only received minor injuries and was the sole occupant in the car. If there had been a passenger, the situation would have been quite different, he said.
The driver was transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center for evaluation by the Beaver Dam-Littlefield Fire District’s ambulance.
The semitractor’s driver was uninjured.
Damage done to the back of the semitractor involved the destruction of an airbag related to the suspension system and caused it to lose air. The damage made it hard for the driver of the semitrailer to move his rig forward, Hunt said, but it was eventually able to pull off to the side of the road before it couldn’t move any farther.
“That just entangled the car even more,” Hunt said.
Tow trucks attempted to separate the tanker-trailer from the Lexus with little success.
Eventually a new semitractor with an empty tanker arrived to transfer the gasoline from the damaged tanker while also taking on the second tanker-trailer.
After the fuel and second tanker-trailer were transferred to the new semitractor and it was about to get underway, the second trailer was rear-ended by an oncoming vehicle.
The driver who rear-ended the second tanker received minor injuries and was also taken to Dixie Regional Medical Center, Hunt said.
The southbound lanes were either partially or completely closed as responders dealt with the crash scene, causing traffic to back up to the Black Rock exit at milepost 27 and beyond.
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