UPDATED: 2 fatalities after SUV rolls on I-15 near Cedar Pocket in Arizona, 1 air-lifted to hospital

A vehicle involved in a rollover on I-15 near Cedar Pocket, Arizona/Utah border, Sept. 16, 2023 | Photo by Andre Ojeda, Beaver Dam / Littlefield Fire Department, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Arizona Department of Transportation announced that southbound traffic on I-15 was stopped completely Saturday afternoon after a vehicle rollover near Cedar Pocket.

Image from the Arizona Department of Transportation website showing an incident near Cedar Pocket, Ariz. on Sept. 16, 2023 | Photo by ADOT, St. George News

Update: At 10 p.m., Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire Department Battalion Chief Andre Ojeda reported two fatalities to St. George News.

Ojeda confirmed that one vehicle was involved in the incident, an SUV with seven passengers. The driver and three passengers wore seatbelts while three other passengers on the back bench seat did not, Ojeda stated.

The driver of the vehicle started feeling vibrations in the steering wheel and and that’s when they lost control of the vehicle, he continued.

The SUV “hit the center divider, spun around and rolled, then the rear hit the guard rail on the shoulder side of the road,” Ojeda said. “When it hit the guard rail going backwards, that’s when the 3 on the back seat were ejected from the vehicle out of the tail-gate rear window.”

Ojeda said the ejected passengers, all females estimated to be in their 20’s, fell 30 or 40 yards from the highway into a deep ravine. One survivor was flown by Mercy Air to St. George Hospital, Ojeda said. Two passengers were declared dead at the scene.

A vehicle involved in a rollover on I-15 near Cedar Pocket, Arizona/Utah border, Sept. 16, 2023 | Photo by Andre Ojeda, Beaver Dam / Littlefield Fire Department, St. George News

Responding agencies included police and ambulances from St. George and Mesquite, Life Flight, Mercy Air, Mojave County Sheriffs and Arizona Department of Public Safety, Ojeda said.

Ojeda estimated that southbound traffic was going to be very slow as of 10 p.m. while emergency personnel continued  recovery operations and investigations at the scene.

Ojeda wanted to emphasize that it’s important for drivers who are backed up in line waiting to make sure they maintain open spaces in traffic for emergency vehicles to get through.

“What happens is one emergency vehicle will come through and they’ll let them in, but then get right back into the line of traffic,” Ojeda said. “Especially in scenes like this when two, three, four emergency vehicles are arriving, make sure to keep a lane open so they can get through.”

An email sent to St. George News from the Arizona DOT at 3:47 p.m. that stated: “We can confirm that Interstate 15 southbound is closed at milepost 19 due to a crash. There is no estimated time to reopen the highway.”

Comments on social media sites stated that traffic is backed up for miles and with ambulances and a helicopters on the scene.

The southbound lanes of Interstate 15 are closed near Littlefield, Arizona according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. Cedar Pocket approximately 10 miles from the Arizona-Utah state line.

Motorists are advised to expect delays and seek an alternate route. The northbound I-15 lanes are unaffected.

Real-time highway conditions are available on ADOT’s Arizona Traveler Information site at az511.govthe AZ511 app and by calling 511.

St. George News will update this story as more information is gathered from authorities.

Update: At 6 p.m. ADOT reported one lane has reopened on southbound I-15. The right lane remains closed. There is no estimated time to reopen the right lane.

Update: At 9 p.m. ADOT reported both southbound lanes are now open.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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