MOHAVE COUNTY, Ariz. — A six-vehicle crash followed by a three-vehicle crash that occurred on the Arizona stretch of southbound Interstate 15 Friday morning left traffic backed up for miles into the evening. Though a number of vehicles were totaled in the resulting mayhem, an Arizona trooper who responded to the incident called the lack of injuries involved a “miracle.”
“It was a mess, a very lucky one, too,” Trooper Tom Callister of the Arizona Department of Public Safety told St. George News.
Around 10:35 a.m. MST, an older couple was leaving Mesquite, Nevada, in a 2021 Dodge pickup truck heading north to St. George. While on northbound I-15, Callister said “the driver somehow crossed over the median and started driving northbound in the southbound lanes, and he collided with five vehicles going the wrong way.”
The crash occurred in the are of milepost 12 on southbound I-15. The other vehicles included four passenger cars and one UPS semitractor-trailer. One of the cars involved in the crash was hit at least three times, Callister said, describing how it was first hit by the Dodge pickup, then the UPS semi, which pushed it into one of the other cars involved in the collective crash.
“There were a total of 15 people involved in the collision; six vehicles total,” he said. “All in all, there was relatively minor injuries, and that was a miracle in itself. The most severe injury was an individual who sustained facial lacerations but refused medical treatment at the scene.”
The Dodge pickup’s driver, an 83-year-old man, was cited for reckless driving, Callister said.
While DPS troopers and other responders worked to clear the scene of the crash, it shut down I-15 for about an hour and caused a traffic backup that ran from mile 12 to 22.
“While I’m working back collision and moving all those vehicles off the road, we had a second collision in the backup at milepost 13.8,” Callister said.
This time it involved two passenger cars and a semi. Like the first crash, though, no major injuries were involved. Rather, it just made conditions on southbound I-15 worse.
“We were able to clear the interstate completely of the now nine cars, which took about two hours,” he said. “And by that time traffic had backed up so much that when we released it, it got bottled up in the construction zone at Desert Springs, which is narrowed down to a one-lane road.”
The construction zone Callister mentioned exists between miles 8 and 9 on both north and southbound lanes and is related to work being done on the bridge there. With the added complication of the construction zone, southbound traffic was now backed up from mile 9 to 22 with a potential two-hour delay.
If the bridge work wasn’t enough, a championship football game between the University of Oregon and the University of Utah being played in Las Vegas that evening was drawing fans from Utah – fans who were now stuck in traffic.
“There was just a sea of red traffic down I-15 and red jerseys, Utah banners, and it really messed up a lot of their travel plans,” Callister said.
As of 6:30 p.m., Callister said traffic was still backed up between miles 9 and 18 on southbound I-15. However, Arizona DPS Sgt. Preston Price confirmed traffic had begun to thin out some and was moving along by 7:10 p.m.
Overall, the trooper said it was incredible that there were no major injuries or fatalities involved in the crashes.
“It’s an absolute, unbelievable miracle this guy literally drove wrongly right into five vehicles, and one of them was a UPS semi truck and everybody escaped relatively (unhurt),” Callister said.
“We got off very lucky, because usually head-on collisions result in fatalities. Several injuries were avoided and we attribute that to people wearing their seatbelts, which kept them from flying forward and hitting the dashboard and/or their windshields.”
This report is based on information provided by law enforcement and may not contain the full scope of findings.
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