Bank robber’s suicide leads to hazmat closure of I-15

Photo by David Ritter

NOTHERN ARIZONA – Interstate 15 was shut down for several hours Tuesday night due to a hazardous materials incident connected to the suicide of an alleged Mesquite bank robber in the Virgin River Gorge.

I-15 was closed down around 8 p.m. at Utah Exit 2 and Arizona Exit 8 Tuesday night in response to what the Utah Department of Transportation described as a hazardous materials incident. The Arizona Department of Transportation added the closure also involved a police event.

The hazardous materials warning and police event were connected to a bank robbery in Mesquite that morning.

Troy Eugene Williams, 43, of Punta Gorda, Florida, walked into a Nevada Bank and Trust at 11:38 a.m. He told a teller he had a gun and a bomb, yet did not brandish a weapon. He left the bank with a reported $2,800.  Witnesses watched him run to his car in a nearby apartment parking lot and drive away.

Williams’ car was spotted by an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer near mile marker 11 and pulled the man over near mile marker 20. Before the DPS officer could make contact with the Williams, the man put a gun to his head and committed suicide. (See previous story here)

The DPS officer and his backup were not injured in the incident.

A segment of I-15 was later closed due to the possible presence of a bomb and other hazardous materials that were determined to exist in Williams’ car.

The St. George Explosive Ordnance Disposal Unit was called to the scene, and a hazmat team was flown in from Phoenix to examine the materials. At least two packages containing potentially hazardous materials were removed from the vehicle.

The exact contents of the packages have yet to be disclosed by authorities.

Williams’ car was also removed from the scene, and I-15 reopened to traffic by 5 a.m. on Wednesday.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.

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