Chrysler launches down 50-foot embankment in Gorge after driver has choking fit

The scene of a crash involving a Chrysler 300 that went off the shoulder of northbound Interstate 15 and rolled down a 50-foot embankment in the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Ariz., May 25, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Public Safety, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A woman was transported to the hospital early Sunday morning after a rollover on Interstate 15 sent her car plunging down an embankment in the Virgin River Gorge.

The scene of a crash involving a Chrysler 300 that went off the shoulder of northbound Interstate 15 and rolled down a 50-foot embankment in the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Ariz., May 25, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Public Safety, St. George News

Law enforcement personnel from the Arizona Department of Public Safety and Mohave County Sheriff’s Office initially responded to the incident on report of a semitractor-trailer blocking the outside lane on northbound I-15 just south of the Cedar Pocket exit near milepost 19 at approximately 5 a.m.

When police arrived on scene, they learned the driver of the semi had stopped to help the woman involved in the rollover.

“Neither the deputy nor I knew we were even going to a crash at first. We expected to arrive and figure out what happened with the semi blocking the lane,” Arizona Highway Patrol trooper Stephen Hughes said.

The woman told troopers she went off the road and rolled her car down an embankment, where it came to rest near the river. Due to an injury to her shoulder, she was transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George for evaluation and treatment.

Officers then pieced together the series of events that left a Chrysler 300 down a 50-foot embankment just yards from the Virgin River’s shore.

At the time of the crash, the driver was moving from California to Iowa and had left the night before. When she reached Mesquite in Nevada, she stopped for coffee. After returning to the road and driving a ways through the gorge, Hughes said she took a drink of her coffee and began choking when it went down wrong. She then began vomiting and briefly lost consciousness.

The area where a rollover took place on northbound Interstate 15 in the Virgin River Gorge, Mohave County, Ariz., May 25, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District, St. George News

As she was struggling, Hughes said the Chrysler veered off the right shoulder just before the guardrail and hit a berm above a sharp drop-off, launching the car in the air where it sailed past “some pretty large boulders” before touching down and rolling toward the river.

“She wasn’t going that fast, so when she hit the berm at the top, it deployed the airbags, and from there the car basically tumbled down the hill,” Hughes said.

After she came to in the pitch darkness with the sound of the river in the background, Hughes said she realized she had been in a crash. She managed to exit the car through the driver’s side window and started climbing back up the embankment.

“It took her quite a while to crawl to the top of that hill,” Hughes said, explaining that it was dark and she was unfamiliar with the surroundings. “She only knew she crashed because there was glass everywhere, but she didn’t know she went down a ravine and didn’t even have any shoes on when she climbed up to the top.”

A Chrysler 300 is pulled to the top of an embankment after a rollover in the Virgin River Gorge, Ariz., May 25, 2019 | Photo courtesy of Arizona Department of Public Safety, St. George News

Once she reached the shoulder of the road, she started waving at passing vehicles for help, Hughes said, noting that it took a while for someone to notice her with so few motorists on the road at that hour.

The semi driver saw her just as he passed by. With no shoulder lane available to pull over, he stopped the truck in the middle of the roadway and got out to help her, prompting the call to 911 from a passing motorist.

“The woman had no broken bones, no bleeding, no serious injuries — and that was no accident,” Hughes said. “She was wearing her seat belt and was going a safe speed, and that, I am sure, is what saved her life — of that I am certain.”

The driver wasn’t cited, and her car was pulled from the embankment and towed away.

Emergency personnel from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, Mohave County Sheriff’s Office and Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire District responded and tended to the scene.

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

 

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Email: cblowers@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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