ST. GEORGE — A semitractor-trailer tipped over on southbound Interstate 15 along a section of the Arizona strip Monday evening, causing significant traffic delays well into the night.
According to a traffic alert released by the Arizona Department of Transportation, the incident occurred in the Virgin River Gorge at milepost 16 at approximately 5:42 p.m.
The department tweeted a photo from the scene of the crash just after 6 p.m., showing the vehicle on its side, diagonally blocking both lanes of travel.
Approximately one hour later, ADOT posted an update saying that the left lane had been reopened.
**UPDATE** The LEFT lane has reopened at milepost 16. There is heavy traffic in the area; please be patient while it clears.
— Arizona DOT (@ArizonaDOT) March 30, 2021
Sgt. John Bottoms with the Arizona Department of Public Safety said just after 7 p.m. that traffic was backed up at least four miles, but by 8:30 the backup was down to approximately one mile.
The enclosed box trailer was loaded with one-ton bales of alfalfa hay, Bottoms said.
“For whatever reason they’re transporting this alfalfa in a box trailer, which I was kind of surprised to hear,” Bottoms told St. George News. “I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced that. It’s making it a little more difficult than if they had been hauling it on a flatbed trailer.”
“The wrecker that’s on scene is having some difficulty in getting the trailer up-righted.” Bottoms said. “They’ve pulled in some additional resources like front loaders to help lift the trailer to help get it upright so that we can get the highway clear, but if they can’t because it’s too heavy, then they’re going to have to offload at least some of the hay.”
Bottoms said preliminary investigation suggests that excessive speed was a factor.
“There are some some witnesses, including other truck drivers, that that saw this truck traveling southbound in the gorge,” he said, adding that the witnesses reported the semi passed them when they were going 65 mph.
“One driver claimed that that he was going 70 and the truck was catching up to him or approaching him when he lost control and crashed,” Bottoms added.
“The driver did claim that he was only going 50 and the wind tipped him over,” he said, adding that the driver’s claim runs contrary to the statements of multiple witnesses.
The driver is a Mexican national with a commercial driver license out of Mexico, Bottoms said, adding that the man speaks very little English.
“He had very minor injuries, just a couple of little scrapes, and he didn’t want any medical attention,” Bottoms said.
“He is going to be cited for failure to control the speed of his vehicle to avoid collision,” he added. “I guess he’ll get a ride out of the gorge with the tow truck company when they get his trailer all taken care of.”
One traffic lane remains open, he added.
“Traffic is only backed up about a mile right now but with traffic volume dying down we expect that probably in the next hour there there won’t be any backup,” Bottoms said.
The northbound lanes were not affected, ADOT reported.
This report is based on information provided by law enforcement and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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