ST. GEORGE — Four vehicles traveling northbound on I-15 were involved in a string of related crashes on Sunday morning, resulting in the death of one driver.
The Utah Department of Public Safety released a statement on Sunday afternoon sharing some of the details of the incident, and St. George News received further confirmation and details from Lieutenant Shawn Judd, public information officer with the Utah Highway Patrol.
According to a statement provided to police, the initial crash occurred after the male driver of a gold Chevrolet Cruze fell asleep at the wheel just after 10 a.m. and drifted out of his lane and into the side of a semi-tractor trailer to his right.
The Cruze sustained significant damage on its passenger side and came to a rest in the middle of I-15 near New Harmony (milepost 40), while the sideswiped commercial vehicle pulled off onto the right shoulder of the highway.
Another semi-tractor trailer traveling behind the first accident slowed down and attempted to change lanes to avoid hitting the stationary Cruze. As it slowed, a silver Nissan Rogue traveling behind the second semi truck collided with the back of the trailer, killing the male driver on impact and seriously injuring a female passenger.
The couple traveling in the Nissan were in their 70s and both were wearing their seatbelts, Judd said. The drivers of both commercial vehicles and the Cruze were uninjured.
The female was taken via Intermountain Life Flight to St. George Regional Hospital.
“No citations were issued at the scene, because at a serious crash like this we’ll wait until we’ve finished more of the investigation and gathering all information before we’ll make a decision on any type of charges or citation,” Judd said.
For the purposes of investigation, Judd said the crashes were being treated as two separate, but related, incidents. He added that drowsy driving is a very large contributor to the crashes that Utah Highway Patrol investigates.
“This is a case where someone who was potentially drowsy was involved in a crash that caused another crash where someone lost their life,” Judd said. “If you are drowsy or tired or fatigued, you should not be driving. We as drivers are responsible for our actions, and this just shows the seriousness of drowsy driving and its unintended consequences.”
Both the Cruze and Nissan were totalled by their collisions, while the trailer that was rear-ended by the Nissan sustained damage to the underride protection bar that prevents vehicles from going completely beneath the trailer in the event of an accident. The tractor portion of the second semi truck was undamaged, and there was only minor damage to the first semi-tractor trailer.
The north side of I-15 was closed temporarily while the scene was stabilized. The left emergency lane was then reopened for northbound traffic, and traffic continued north through the one lane for approximately 2.5 hours.
Names of the victims were withheld by troopers.
This report is based on information provided by law enforcement and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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