Driver hospitalized after being sideswiped by semi in Virgin River Gorge

Silver Kia sedan is damaged when a semitractor-trailer sideswipes the car near the Virgin River Gorge in Mohave County, Ariz., May 5, 2021 | Submitted photo, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Police say a driver is lucky to be alive after she was sideswiped by a semitractor-trailer while standing near her disabled vehicle in the northbound lane of Interstate 15 just south of the Utah border in Arizona.

Silver Kia sedan is damaged when a semitractor-trailer sideswipes the car near the Virgin River Gorge in Mohave County, Ariz., May 5, 2021 | Submitted photo, St. George News

At 3:40 a.m. MST on Wednesday, troopers and emergency personnel were dispatched to the area of northbound I-15 near mile marker 24 in Mohave County. Arizona Highway Patrol Trooper Thomas Callister told St. George News there were “multiple calls” from motorists reporting that a vehicle was sitting in the middle of the roadway with no one in it.

The car, a silver Kia, was located a few miles south of the Utah-Arizona border by troopers, who also found a man sitting inside of the vehicle.

“We thought it was completely abandoned but then we found a guy relaxing inside of the car,” he said.

Callister said the man initially told authorities that he ran out of gas, and then said that his girlfriend ran out of gas, which was the reason the car was stopped in the middle of one of the interstate’s travel lanes.

Since the man was the only person they could see inside of the car, troopers began looking around for the woman, which is when they saw her lying on the ground near the shoulder approximately 50 feet north of where the car was stopped.

“She was lying in the dirt on the shoulder while he was in the car,” Callister said.

As the car was being pushed out of the roadway Callister walked toward the woman who appeared to be in her early 20s and severely injured, with extensive road rash injuries to her arm and hand, a “very large laceration” to the back of her head, as well as multiple bruises and swelling to her face that was also heavily bleeding.

Silver Kia sedan is damaged when a semitractor-trailer sideswipes the car near the Virgin River Gorge in Mohave County, Ariz., May 5, 2021 | Submitted photo, St. George News

Callister said the woman initially told troopers she was injured during an assault by her boyfriend, and when asked about the road-rash injuries to her hand, she told troopers they were caused when her boyfriend threw her out of the vehicle.

At that point the man was detained by police, but as soon as he was placed in the back of the patrol vehicle, Callister said the woman started walking toward them, which is when authorities realized she had suffered a significant injury to one of her feet or ankles that caused her to walk with a limp.

“I mean she was seriously injured when she was walking back toward us,” he said.

The woman reportedly recanted her initial statement and said her boyfriend never assaulted her. She went on to explain they were traveling together when they ran out of gas and the car stopped in the middle of the lane. She then got out of the car, according to her statement, which is when she was struck by a semitractor-trailer.

Not knowing if the second account was accurate, Callister began looking around the vehicle to determine if a semi could have struck the woman, which is when he found several very large lug nuts near the car that were broken and appeared to have come off the wheel of a semi truck, as well as paint transfer along the side of the vehicle consistent with the couple’s account of a semi brushing up against the car.

Attempting to clarify what had taken place out there, Callister said the man told him they were returning to Missouri from a trip to California and his girlfriend started driving when he became too tired to continue. As they headed north toward Utah, the man said, they ran out of gas and when the car stopped, the woman got out – which is when she and the car were both sideswiped by the semi. The impact threw the woman more than 30 feet before she landed several yards from the shoulder of the roadway.

“Talk about a near-death experience,” Callister said. “That woman was very, very lucky to still be alive.”

The driver was transported to St. George Regional Hospital for evaluation and treatment for multiple injuries, including her foot that sustained multiple fractures from the impact. She was also found to have a collapsed lung, head injuries and was later diagnosed with a concussion, Callister said.

The man went with the tow truck driver that towed the vehicle. The woman was later admitted to the hospital.

In addition to the injuries sustained during the incident, Callister said physicians also found a number of other injuries that were at various stages of healing, including “old wounds” that had not yet healed completely.

It was difficult to determine what had caused the woman to get out of the car when they ran out of gas, or whether or not her boyfriend had assaulted her at some point, Callister said, adding that it was difficult to assess what had actually taken place since she had also suffered a concussion and extensive injuries to her head.

This report is based on statements from police, emergency personnel or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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