ST. GEORGE — A driver was transported to the hospital by ambulance Wednesday night following a rollover on northbound Interstate 15 that left a heavily damaged vehicle more than 100 yards from the roadway just south of Beaver Dam, Arizona.
Following a series of calls to 911 from passing motorists, troopers and emergency personnel were dispatched to a rollover near mile marker 8 involving a Volkswagen Jetta with a driver who was reportedly injured. After initially unsuccessful attempts to find the incident or driver, responders ultimately found the man waiting near the roadway, and he was transported to Dixie Regional Medical Center for evaluation and treatment.
The driver’s statement prior to transport to the hospital was that he was heading north on I-15 to return home to Leeds when he lost control of his vehicle, Arizona Department of Public Safety Trooper, Thomas Callister said, adding that after that point, “he [the driver] said had no idea what happened.”
Based on dispatch calls and statements, officers pieced together the series of events that led up to the vehicle ending up where it did, and Callister said a major factor was “extreme speed.”
The Jetta was reportedly traveling at more than 100 mph. When the driver lost control of the vehicle, it veered to the right and began to roll once it hit the soft shoulder. From there, the car continued rolling for more than 150 yards before coming to rest so far from the roadway that it “basically disappeared,” Callister said.
The driver was able to climb out of the car and hike up to the interstate, where he attempted to flag down passing motorists from the side of the roadway, prompting the first 911 call that came in at 8:48 p.m. MST (9:48 p.m. MDT).
“That’s when officers and the medical crew drove up and down the interstate looking for a pedestrian or any signs of a crash,” Callister said, “but we found nothing.”
Approximately an hour later, emergency dispatch began receiving the second set of calls reporting that a pedestrian was “standing in the middle of the interstate trying to flag people down for help,” Callister said.
At 10:10 p.m. MST, troopers were able to locate the driver near the shoulder, and Callister said he noted signs of possible impairment as the man provided an account of the incident.
The driver explained that he had been kicked out of one of the casinos in Mesquite where he had been drinking, the trooper said, at which point the driver said “he was forced to drive back to St. George even though he knew that he might be intoxicated.”
The reason the crash was not located earlier was due to the distance between the shoulder and where the Jetta ended up.
“Bottom line is that we didn’t see him because he was so far off the road,” Callister said.
Troopers also determined that once the first call to 911 was made, the driver likely returned to the car and was out of sight as responders searched along the interstate. It wasn’t until the second set of calls went into emergency dispatch that the driver remained near the shoulder and was spotted by police.
The man sustained several injuries during the crash, but even so, the incident could have been much worse, Callister said, adding that the only thing that stood between the driver and even more significant injury was the fact that he was properly restrained when the rollover occurred.
The driver was cited for suspected DUI. The Jetta was destroyed and subsequently towed from the roadway. No other vehicles were involved.
Callister said there is no reason sufficient enough to justify impaired driving, and during the holidays, when troopers typically see a spike in the number of drivers either cited or arrested for DUI, it is even more important for motorists to remain alert and prepared.
“Never, under any circumstances, should a driver think that impaired driving is justified,” he said. “Because it’s not.”
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