ST. GEORGE — A series of crashes involving a total of 17 vehicles on northbound Interstate 15 Tuesday evening was set into motion by a lane closure and inattentive drivers, police say.
“It was a mess out there last night,” Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Joe Pastor told St. George News Wednesday.
The first crash was reported on northbound I-15 near milepost 12. The crash involved three vehicles and resulted in minor injuries to one of the occupants from airbag deployment.
At the time of the crash, a vehicle advancing toward gridlock traffic was unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the car in front of them, pushing that vehicle into a third vehicle ahead of it.
The only injured occupant in the crash suffered minor burns when the airbags were deployed.
While responders were dealing with the first crash, a second crash involving six vehicles was reported less than an hour later near milepost 10 where police found multiple vehicles damaged and partially blocking traffic, which was already at a standstill.
Similar to the first one, the second crash involved a Toyota heading north in which the driver was unable to stop in time and swerved to avoid hitting a vehicle just ahead.
The Toyota clipped the vehicle as it swerved to the left and continued into the emergency lane when the driver pulled the wheel sharply to the right, sending the Toyota crashing into a third vehicle that was then pushed into two other vehicles.
The Toyota struck one of the tanks on a semitractor-trailer and then rolled until it came to rest upside-down blocking one of the lanes, “and I’m not even sure which lane was blocked at that point, Pastor said.
The driver of the Toyota was able to crawl out of the overturned vehicle and was transported to the hospital with minor injuries. They were released from the hospital a short time later.
Shortly after responders cleared the second crash, a third crash was reported on northbound I-15 in the same area at 5:50 p.m. The incident involved four cars, and, similar to the two prior crashes, a vehicle was heading north when it encountered stopped traffic. Unable to stop in time, the driver rear-ended the trailing vehicle, pushing it into a third car and causing it to crash into a fourth vehicle.
No injuries were reported in that crash, Pastor said.
Less than 45 minutes later, a fourth crash involving two vehicles was reported at Exit 13 where one northbound vehicle rear-ended a second vehicle, injuring one of the occupants who was transported to the hospital by ambulance from burns sustained when the airbags deployed.
Traffic was already at a standstill with the lane closure in the construction area just south of Exit 16, Pastor said, “so the impact on traffic was pretty minimal really.”
Even with the backup, traffic was able to slowly maneuver around whichever scene was active as it continued north.
There was another two-vehicle crash near milepost eight that was reported in the middle of the series of crashes at milepost 10 and 13, which was minor and involved no injuries, an official with the Utah Department of Transportation said,
The crashes were triggered by the lane closure at milepost 16 that is still under construction, Pastor said, “But were caused by motorists not paying attention to traffic around them.”
Pastor continued by saying all occupants were properly restrained which prevented any serious injuries, “which is surprising with so many cars involved.”
He also said that motorists need to make sure “they are only focusing on driving when they are in the car — that’s it.”
All of these crashes were reported between 4:30 and 6:30 p.m.
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