2 crashes in 90 minutes in the Gorge; 2 sent to the hospital

A 2014 Nissan Altima hit a cliff wall Sunday, then rolled multiple times after swerving off the road. The driver was transported to St. George Regional Hospital with severe injuries, Dec. 26, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam Fire Department, St. George News

ST. GEORGE —Two separate incidents on I-15 in the Virgin River Gorge Sunday left two people injured within less than 90 minutes.

A 2014 Kia Sol had a rollover after one of the tires failed and the driver lost control on I-15 in the Gorge, Dec. 23, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam Fire Department., St. George News

The first took place at 11:25 a.m. at mile marker 23 in Arizona. It involved three individuals from St. George traveling south on I-15 in a 2014 yellow Kia Sol. The driver was in an area where traffic slows from 75 to 55 miles per hour and lost control when one of the tires on her vehicle failed, Trooper Tom Callister of the Arizona Department of Public Safety told the St. George News.

The vehicle rolled in the interstate and was blocking the left lane in the Gorge, leaving traffic backed up for three miles. The driver and front-seat passenger suffered what Callister characterized as “very minor injuries.” He said the rear-seat passenger was hurt, but his injuries didn’t appear life-threatening. The injured male was transported to St. George Regional Hospital by the Beaver Dam Fire Department. While he didn’t cite the driver for speeding, Callister said she was going too fast.

“Seat belts were definitely a factor in reducing the injuries in this collision,” Callister said.

A  second incident happened at 12:52 pm., also on the southbound side of I-15 in the Gorge in Arizona. It involved a driver from Stansbury Park, Utah.

“Witnesses observed a black 2014 Nissan Altima that appeared to be going at a high rate of speed, and traffic was very heavy due to the holiday,” Callister said. “He came to milepost 17 where traffic was very slow. He went off the road to the right and he impacted the rock cliff face on the edge of the roadway.”

The man’s vehicle rolled an unknown number of times. The Altima was a total loss, with a missing tire, smashed-out windows and windshields and a crumpled front-end. The driver’s injuries were severe. First responders considered airlifting the driver to the hospital but curtailed that plan when they discovered he was conscious and able to answer questions. At that point, the driver, who was the only one in the car, was transported to St. George Regional Hospital, again by the Beaver Dam Fire Department. The latter incident involved a less severe backup of 2 miles, as the driver’s car had come to rest on the right shoulder of the highway as opposed to on the highway itself.

A Nissan Altima rolled several times on I-15 in the Gorge area.  Arizona State Trooper Callister Tom Callister, says a seatbelt saved the driver’s life, Dec. 26, 2021 | Photo courtesy of Beaver Dam Fire Department, St. George News

“Again, a seatbelt absolutely saved this man’s life,” Callister said.

Despite reports of unsafe speeds, the second driver wasn’t cited either. Callister said that both drivers suffered the consequences of hurried driving.

“We are having heavier than normal traffic to the north and southbound due to Christmas travelers heading back to their homes,” Callister said. “If both of them had been going the speed limit or anywhere around it, I don’t think these collisions would have occurred. Even with the tire separation, it’s much more controllable at the normal highway speeds as opposed to the higher speeds.”

Callister offered advice, in case anyone should suffer a tire malfunction.

“If you ever have a blowout, don’t hit your brakes,” he said. “You lose your traction on one side and it causes you to lose control. My advice is to slowly slow down, use your turn signals, pull onto the shoulder and stop your car. Even if it causes damage to the wheel, that’s something I can live with.”

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

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