ST. GEORGE — A 62-year-old driver was returning home after a long trip when he fell asleep at the wheel and rolled his vehicle multiple times near Littlefield, Arizona, police say.
Personnel with the Beaver Dam-Littlefield Fire District and Arizona Department of Public Safety arrived at the scene of the single-vehicle rollover near milepost 7 shortly after the incident was reported Thursday around 11:45 a.m. MDT.
Beaver Dam-Littlefield Fire Chief Jeff Hunt told St. George News the man had been in Ohio and was returning to his residence in the Littlefield area when the crash occurred.
Several motorists stopped to render aid to the driver who was trapped inside of the vehicle, Bottoms said, including a Marine who was returning to base and came upon the crash, along with a woman with EMT experience who helped to slow the bleeding to the driver’s arm, which was severely lacerated, Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Bottoms told St. George News.
Due to the severity of the rollover, Mercy Air was also launched as responders made their way to the scene, which is standard, he said, as it significantly reduces transport time and increases the survivability rate of those involved in violent crashes.
When EMTs found him, he was suffering from extreme pain in his left rib area, labored breathing and other indicators of possible internal injuries that personnel were unable to see at the scene, Hunt said.
“You always worry about a punctured lung or other parameters that are worrisome with these severe crashes,” Hunt said, adding that the helicopter landed near the interstate and the man was flown to Dixie Regional Medical Center for treatment.
Hunt went on to say that an early launch of Mercy Air was key in this incident, as opposed to waiting until after police arrived to assess the driver’s injuries. In these situations, a helicopter can always return to base in the event it is not needed, but he said he would “rather have that helicopter hovering above my head than to have to wait for it to land with a patient who is seriously injured.”
At the time of the crash, the Cadillac was heading south on I-15 when the driver fell asleep. Within seconds, he was awakened by the sound of the tires hitting the rumble strips as the car continued off the right shoulder. The driver overcorrected to the left, which sent the Cadillac careening across both lanes of travel before it hit the soft median and rolled multiple times.
Bottoms said the man was initially trapped inside the vehicle, and employees with the Arizona Department of Transportation happened to come upon the crash shortly after it happened and were able to free the driver by prying open the driver’s side door using crowbars.
“That driver was lucky to have so much help out there,” he said. “They were in the right place at the right time.”
When Bottoms responded to the hospital for followup, he learned the man had broken several ribs and suffered multiple other fractures, he said, and while he “probably bumped his head a number of times while the vehicle rolled,” he did not suffer any traumatic brain injuries.
“That seat belt kept him inside of the vehicle as it rolled,” Bottoms said. “Otherwise, it could have been much, much worse.”
The Cadillac was demolished and subsequently removed from the roadway. No other vehicles were involved.
Bottoms said a semitractor-trailer was also heading south just behind the Cadillac and told troopers the driver didn’t appear to be speeding when the rollover took place, which could be seen on the truck’s onboard camera that caught the crash in real-time.
He also said the driver was properly insured and licensed when the crash took place, adding there was no damage to any state property or any other vehicles and minimal impact on traffic. The costs associated with the crash will be paid through the insurance. As such, he said, he chose not to cite the driver following the rollover.
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