ST. GEORGE — Three people were transported to the hospital after a spate of semitractor-trailer rollovers were reported on Interstate 15 between St. George and Cedar City as heavy rains doused Southern Utah Wednesday morning.
The first rollover was reported on southbound I-15 near mile marker 31 shortly after midnight involving a UPS semitractor-trailer that rolled near the shoulder and was partially blocking the outside lane.
Responders arrived to find the cab and trailers off the right shoulder of the roadway, but the rear section of the second trailer was partially blocking the outside lane, Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jake Hicks said.
At the time of the crash, the driver was heading south in heavy rain when the semi hit a patch of water, causing the driver to lose control of the truck as it continued past the right shoulder and rolled.
The driver and co-driver were both transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center primarily as a precaution, Hicks said, as both suffered only minor injuries.
The semi was pulled upright and subsequently towed from the roadway.
“Luckily, the trailers were empty at the time, so it was a fairly quick cleanup,” Hicks said.
While responders were tending to the first crash, a second rollover was reported 3 miles away involving a fully loaded semi that rolled off the freeway and continued down a small ravine.
Hicks said the same conditions were present in the second crash, in which the driver lost control of the semi as it continued off the right shoulder and rolled. More than 20,000 pounds of cheese spilled from the trailer after it was breached during the crash.
“The cheese went spilling down the embankment and crews are still cleaning that up,” Hicks added.
the driver in the second rollover was also transported to the hospital with minor injuries.
Hicks said these crashes serve “as a cautionary tale,” reminding drivers that inclement weather can create dangerous road conditions, “whether it’s snow, ice or rain — it can bring surprises if drivers are caught off guard.”
In both crashes, speed too fast for conditions likely caused the drivers to lose control of the trucks, he explained, adding that the speed limit posted is for clear skies and dry roads — not for situations where heavy rains are running across the interstate.
Considering the severity of the rollovers, he said, all occupants were likely spared from suffering serious injury due to being properly restrained at the time of the crash, “which is the one thing they all did right.”
The recovery operation at mile marker 31 was still underway as of Wednesday afternoon, and a crane has been dispatched to the area to recover the trailer. Crews had to clear thousands of pounds of cheese from the embankment before it could be removed.
As the recovery effort continued, a third semi crashed off the southbound side of I-15 just north of mile marker 31, coming to rest against the embankment. A wrecker was dispatched to remove the disable semi from the roadway.
Intermittent lane closures will be likely as the crane pulls the wreckage from the embankment. Hicks cautioned drivers to use extra care while traveling through the area and that delays are expected.
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