A four-vehicle collision halts southbound traffic on Interstate 15 to a standstill in the Virgin River Gorge between St. George, Utah and Littlefield, Arizona, Sept. 13, 2020 | Photo courtesy of Jeff Hunt, St. George News
ST. GEORGE —Traffic on southbound Interstate 15 came to a standstill Sunday morning after a four-vehicle collision followed by a three-vehicle collision occurred in the Virgin River Gorge between St. George and Littlefield, Arizona.
Trooper Thomas Callister, with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, told St. George News that this collision occurred right at the mouth of the Virgin River Gorge – right on top of Bridge 2 and Bridge 3 near mile marker 13.4, which are the two narrowest points of the gorge.
“And in some ways, the worst place for us to have a collision because it’s so difficult to get through when the road is totally blocked,” he said.
Shortly before the collision, just after 11 a.m., a semitractor-truck with one occupant, a semitractor-truck with three occupants, a white passenger Toyota Corolla with two occupants and a black GMC Denali sports utility vehicle, pulling a travel trailer, with five occupants were headed southbound on Interstate 15 in the right lane in heavy traffic.
“The truck driver (of the lead truck) said that traffic came to a sudden stop for unknown reasons, and he hit his brakes,” Callister said. “When he hit his brakes, the semi behind him rear-ended him and it caused a chain reaction collision.”
After the semi rear-ended the other semi, the Corolla rear-ended the second semi and then the SUV pulling the travel trailer hit both the Corolla and the second semi.
Callister said had the driver of the SUV hit the Corolla in a different way, “this collision would have turned out a lot different and a lot worse.”
The road was closed for about an hour because it was on top of Bridge 7, so there was nowhere for traffic to go.
“It took us about a half-hour to get through traffic just to get to the collision,” he said.
Beaver Dam Littlefield Fire District, Arizona Department of Public Safety, Mohave County Sheriff’s Office and Arizona Department of Transportation responded to the scene.
A man and a woman from out of Las Vegas were in the Corolla and both had to be transported to Mesa View Regional Hospital with what appeared to be minor injuries, Callister said.
The use of seatbelts was a large factor in reducing injuries, he added.
“We had to call out extra troopers just because we were overwhelmed,” Callister said.
The driver of the Corolla, the driver of the SUV and one of the semis were issued citations for following too closely.
Callister said during the backup, a secondary collision occurred, which involved three pickup trucks.
“A pickup truck ran into another pickup truck and then another pickup truck ran into that pickup truck – so three total and there was a minor injury involved in that one,” he said.
The passengers in the secondary accident initially refused medical but then called them back, Beaver Dam Fire Chief Jeff Hunt told St. George News.
Callister said it was a female who hit her head on the windshield but he hadn’t yet heard if she was transported to the hospital.
Callister said citations for following too closely were also issued to two of the pickup truck drivers.
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