ST. GEORGE — A safety check on a vehicle led officers to the driver of an oversized load that inadvertently left a trail of damage to traffic lights on St. George Boulevard and two vehicles on Interstate 15 near Exit 13 in Washington City on Thursday.
Shortly after noon, the St. George Communications Center began receiving calls that traffic lights were out after they were struck by the large piece of equipment that was secured to the trailer of a semitractor-trailer as it headed east on St. George Boulevard. Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Jake Hicks told St. George News the semi was headed to its base, a locally-owned company near Hurricane, and was heading south on state Route 18 before it ended up on St. George Boulevard.
The semi then headed north on I-15 where the load struck the Exit 13 overpass and continued into Hurricane.
Meanwhile, the emergency dispatch sent out a “be on the lookout” broadcast out to all officers, which was also heard by several Utah Highway Patrol troopers that began watching for the truck on I-15.
Hicks said he was one of the troopers who heard the broadcast and was heading north when he noticed a vehicle that was stopped on the shoulder near Exit 13. When he stopped to check on the driver, he said the driver reported driving over a foot-long piece of steel that struck the undercarriage of the vehicle and rendered the car inoperable. The object was said to have come off of a semi as it headed north on the interstate, Hicks said.
While tending to the disabled car, Hicks said he received information from witnesses who stopped and reported that a semi hauling a large piece of equipment had struck the overpass at Exit 13. After which, he was then informed of a second vehicle that was damaged when it drove over a large piece of debris in the roadway.
Hicks said one of the witnesses followed the semi to where it was parked at its company just north of Washington City and relayed that information to the troopers still stopped at Exit 13.
Once the disabled vehicle was towed from the roadway, Hicks said troopers went to the company where the semi was parked and spoke to the representatives of the business who were “very cooperative” he said. From there, they were able to piece together the series of events that led up to the calls to 911.
As it turned out, Hicks said, a “very minor miscalculation” while measuring the actual height of the load was responsible for the damage to the streetlights on St. George Boulevard, the two vehicles and to the I-15 overpass at Exit 13.
“I mean it wasn’t off by very much,” Hicks said, “But it was obviously enough to leave that equipment just over the clearance height which caused it to strike the traffic lights and the overpass.
The semi driver wasn’t aware he had hit anything, likely due to the weight of the load which would have made it difficult to notice that anything was wrong, Hicks said.
Hicks also said there has been nothing to indicate any wrongdoing other than the miscalculation on the load measurements. He added that the company was very cooperative and is working with authorities as the investigation progresses.
Preliminary findings revealed there was only superficial damage to the overpass at Exit 13 but a more thorough inspection would be conducted. Work crews were out repairing the traffic lights in St. George shortly after the incident.
No injuries were reported.
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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