ST. GEORGE — One driver was arrested and another was flown to the hospital in extremely critical condition following a head-on crash with a wrong-way driver on northbound Interstate 15 in the Virgin River Gorge early Wednesday morning.
Arizona Department of Public Safety Trooper Thomas Callister told St. George News that shortly after 5 a.m., emergency dispatch received a 911 call reporting a wrong-way driver in a white Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck traveling south on I-15 in the northbound lane near mile marker 18 in the Virgin River Gorge.
Minutes later, the pickup reportedly collided head-on with a charcoal-colored Honda driven by a Henderson woman near mile marker 14, just south of the Cedar Pocket Exit.
Troopers and emergency personnel responded to the scene and found the pickup empty and the woman in the Honda, the only occupant of the vehicle, trapped and critically injured. Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire Chief Jeff Hunt told St. George News the woman was unresponsive when his emergency crews arrived, so he broke out the rear window, climbed into the SUV and helped to extricate the woman, whose legs were pinned under the dashboard of the vehicle.
An Intermountain Life Flight helicopter was launched from the helipad in St. George to assist, and an Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter was also called in to help with locating the driver of the truck, who Callister said had reportedly fled the scene on foot immediately after the crash.
Emergency crews worked quickly to free the driver from the mangled wreckage, and she was ground transported to the Cedar Pocket Exit where the helicopter was scheduled to land. During the three-minute drive, Hunt said, they provided critical care measures that continued until the helicopter arrived.
The woman sustained massive injuries, Hunt added, several of which were critical and at least one that was a “very life-threatening traumatic injury.”
The man driving the pickup was located shortly after by the DPS helicopter crew, who spotted the man hiding in some rocks and brush at the bottom of the gorge near the river bottom.
Callister said the suspect is a Utah man from Fillmore. He was arrested and transported to the Mohave County Jail in Kingman, Arizona, where he was booked on one count each of fleeing the scene of an injury collision and aggravated assault.
Callister said the identity of the driver is not being released at this time since the investigation into the incident is still active and ongoing.
Hunt went on to say when a motorist or anyone is found with critical injuries or trauma, there is that “golden hour,” a term often used in trauma care that refers to definitive treatment a patient must receive within the first 60 minutes from the time of the injury.
“That means the clock starts when the injury occurs,” he said, “and during Tuesday’s crash our focus was in getting the driver out of the car and into the helicopter as rapidly as possible, knowing that some injuries can cause the injured person to deteriorate very quickly.
Hunt said particularly in cases involving internal bleeding or other injuries that require surgical intervention, the trauma can cause the person to deteriorate very quickly. As such, he said, every second counts and can mean the difference between life and death.
Shortly after arriving at the hospital in St. George, the Honda driver was rushed into surgery, which Hunt said is a very positive sign.
This report is based on statements from police, fire and emergency personnel or other responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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