ST. GEORGE — A multi-vehicle incident was reported Sunday on both sides of Interstate 15 near mile marker 18 in the Virgin River Gorge when two wheels came off of a semitractor-trailer and bounced over the median, creating havoc for several motorists trying to avoid the rogue wheels.
Shortly after 6:30 p.m. Sunday, officers and emergency personnel responded to an incident involving four vehicles that began on southbound I-15 just south of the Cedar Pocket overpass, where a 2000 Kenworth semitractor heading towards Mesquite at 55 mph lost two wheels from the tandem axle of the flatbed trailer it was hauling.
According to Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Bottoms, the driver told troopers it felt as though he had a flat tire when the wheels came off, and when he looked in his rear-view mirror, “he could see the tires rolling alongside his vehicle,” Bottoms said. The driver then slowed down to pull off the interstate.
As he was doing so, the driver saw both tires bounce over the concrete median to the northbound side of the interstate and strike the front of a second semi, a 2020 Freightliner. One of the wheels bounced off the front of the semi and struck the driver’s side window, causing it to shatter which injured the driver.
The tires continued to bounce along the northbound side and then struck the front of a Honda CRV, causing extensive damage.
Meanwhile, the driver of an older-model Mercedes traveling directly behind the Honda swerved to avoid colliding with either the Honda or the rogue tires now bouncing in their path, Bottoms said, but despite their evasive maneuvers, the front of the Mercedes was struck by the semi wheel which completely disabled the car.
The Kenworth driver told troopers that prior to the incident, he conducted a pre-trip inspection on the vehicle and said he noted no damage or irregularities with the tires or axles or any other safety issues that posed a hazard.
The driver of the northbound Freightliner sustained lacerations and scratches when the window shattered but declined to be transported to the hospital following the crash.
No other injuries were reported, which “is pretty amazing,” Bottoms said, considering there were four drivers and three passengers in total, “and not one of them was seriously injured.”
Bottoms also said that had the tires struck the windshield of either one of the passenger cars, in particular, then the incident could have been much worse. He mentioned a crash reported last year that killed a driver when the tire of a flatbed trailer broke loose, jumped the median and then smashed into the windshield of their passenger car.
All three northbound vehicles sustained extensive damage and were subsequently towed from the roadway, while the Kenworth was left undamaged and remained operational. The flatbed trailer being pulled by the truck, however, was heavily damaged when the wheels came off.
Traffic was impacted on the northbound side as responders tended to the scene. The incident is still under investigation.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety and Beaver Dam-Littlefield Fire and Rescue responded to the crash.
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