ST. GEORGE — A driver was injured when a semitractor-trailer loaded with packages crashed on Interstate 15 in the Virgin River Gorge early Tuesday morning.
Shortly before 5 a.m. MDT, officers and emergency personnel responded to a single-vehicle crash on northbound I-15 near mile marker 23 just south of Bridge no. 7. They arrived to find a United Parcel Service semi smashed into the side of a rock wall. They also found a forklift wedged in between the semitractor and the steep rock face.
Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Bottoms said the driver was injured and transported to the hospital while the co-driver was uninjured in the crash.
At the time of the incident, the semi was heading north on I-15 when the driver hit a groove in the road and lost control. The semi took out several hundred feet of guardrail as it continued off the shoulder, where it then struck a forklift and crashed.
Bottoms said the forklift was parked off the shoulder of the roadway by a construction crew that was using the equipment to replace the guardrail that was taken out by another semi that crashed and caught fire in August.
“So this driver actually took out the guardrail that was just replaced two days ago,” Bottoms said.
The co-driver, meanwhile, was asleep in the sleeper section of the cab when the crash occurred and was saved from injury by a net that separates the sleeper berth from the rest of the cab, Bottoms said. Instead of being propelled forward into the cab, the net caught the driver as he was thrown forward during the impact.
Bottoms said the co-driver gave the account of how the crash took place since the driver was transported to the hospital and was unable to speak to troopers beforehand. Once released, the driver took a flight out of Utah.
As such, troopers were unable to obtain a direct account from the driver. Subsequently, at daybreak, the trooper walked along the roadway and followed the same path the semi took but found no evidence of any grooves in the roadway sufficient enough to cause loss of control like the driver described.
“I walked that entire scene, and there were no grooves in the road that I could find,” Bottoms said.
The investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing.
The load the semi was hauling remained intact while the semitractor sustained extensive damage. The forklift was destroyed in the collision.
Hours later, troopers responded to a vehicle fire reported on northbound I-15 near mile marker 3 just south of Littlefield, Arizona. The driver told troopers he pulled over once his car began to experience mechanical problems, and within minutes, the front of the car burst into flames. Beaver Dam-Littlefield Fire and Rescue responded and were able to extinguish the fire quickly. The vehicle was destroyed and later towed from the roadway.
This report is based on statements from police, emergency personnel or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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