Some roads were frightful for holiday: Sideswiping semis, possible DUI blows by trooper at 120 mph

Semitractor-trailer's hull is breached during crash with second semi on northbound Interstate 15 near mile marker 123 near Mesquite, Nev., Dec. 26, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire District, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A semitractor-trailer lost its load on northbound Interstate 15 in Nevada on Saturday, while a quiet Christmas eve was interrupted in Mohave County, Arizona after a driver suspected of DUI blew by an Arizona Department of Public Safety Trooper at roughly 120 miles an hour.

Semitractor-trailer’s hull is breached during a crash with a second semi on northbound Interstate 15 at mile marker 123 near Mesquite, Nev., Dec. 26, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire District, St. George News

On Saturday, shortly before 7 p.m., officers and emergency personnel responded to a crash reported on southbound I-15 near mile marker 123 just north of Mesquite involving two semitractor-trailers.

“The crash took place about 30 feet into Nevada from the Arizona border,” Arizona highway patrol Trooper Thomas Callister said.

Responders arrived to discover that neither driver was injured but one of the semis lost its load when the hull of the trailer was breached, Callister added, and the load spilled across the roadway. A crew was called in to assist in clearing the load and debris from the roadway.

At the time of the crash, a semi stopped along the shoulder of the roadway pulled into the right lane to continue north on the interstate. But as the driver did so, Callister said, he pulled into the path of a second semi heading in the same direction that attempted to avoid the collision by veering to the left.

The maneuver came up short as one of the trailers sideswiped the other, he said, which ripped through the skin of the second trailer and sent its load spilling out, which partially blocked both northbound lanes.

Callister said the driver of the semi that was stopped along the roadway said he never saw the second semi as he pulled out into traffic. By the time he realized his mistake, it was already too late.

The fact that neither driver was injured was very fortunate, he said, so the crash created more of a mess than anything else and no other vehicles were involved. The Arizona Department of Public Safety, Mesquite Fire Department and Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire and Rescue responded and tended to the scene.

Callister said the holiday weekend has been fairly quiet overall, adding that two nights before he was heading south on I-15 on Christmas Eve and noted “there wasn’t another vehicle anywhere in sight.”

The stillness was broken shortly after 10 p.m. when he said that all of a sudden, he could see headlights coming up behind him “at a very high rate of speed” and the driver flashed his high beams as he passed the trooper driving a black Mercedes.

An Arizona Department of Safety vehicle on the northbound Interstate 15 at the Utah Port of Entry. March 11, 2020. | Photo by Chris Reed, St. George News

Callister said he accelerated and caught up to the vehicle as both continued south at the same speed for another mile or so to determine how fast the Mercedes was actually going.

“We were going at least 120 mph by the time we reached mile post 5,” Callister said. “So I thought it was time to drop the hammer and stop this guy before anyone got hurt.”

The trooper activated his lights and pulled the Mercedes over several miles south of Littlefield, which is when he noticed that even though the car was stopped the driver had his foot on the accelerator and was revving up the engine as he approached. The driver had slurred speech and appeared confused, Callister said, adding that “the field sobriety test started well before the driver ever got out of the vehicle.”

The man also showed other signs of impairment as he told the trooper he was heading to the casinos in Mesquite from St. George after spending the day riding all-terrain vehicles on Sand Mountain in Washington County. He also said he was visiting the area from California.

When the driver reportedly failed the field test, he was arrested for suspected DUI.

When Callister contacted the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office prior to transporting the driver to jail, he was advised the jail was not accepting any misdemeanor DUI arrests due to COVID restrictions.

The driver was subsequently cited and then driven back to the Airbnb he was staying at in St. George.

Callister also said that part of the job of Arizona’s highway patrol division is to be on the lookout for impaired drivers, “something we work on continuously,” he said, but there are times, such as what took place Christmas Eve, when a suspected drunk driver finds a trooper – “and if they find us – then we’ll take that too,” he said.

This report is based on information provided by law enforcement and may not contain the full scope of findings. 

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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