Driver killed when semi launches off I-15 into bottom of canyon in Virgin River Gorge

Multiple agencies respond to fatal crash off Interstate 15 southbound near mile marker 23, Mohave County, Arizona, May 8, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

MOHAVE COUNTY — A driver was killed after his semitractor-trailer crashed at the bottom of a deep ravine several miles north of Cedar Pocket in Arizona Tuesday.

Multiple agencies respond to fatal crash of a semitractor-trailer that launched from Interstate 15 into a deep ravine near mile marker 23, Mohave County, Arizona, May 8, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Shortly before 10 a.m. MST, emergency personnel were dispatched to Interstate 15 southbound near mile marker 23 in Arizona on a report of a semitractor-trailer that was discovered at the bottom of an estimated 80-foot crevasse, Arizona Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Bottoms said.

The area where the incident occurred was approximately 5 miles south of the Arizona/Utah border.

The crash was discovered by a Arizona DPS trooper on patrol who was heading north on the interstate, the only vantage point where the crash could have been seen from the interstate, Bottoms said.

The trooper contacted emergency dispatch to report the crash as he made his way down the side of the hill to check on the driver or other occupants that could possibly be trapped and/or injured.

Multiple fire engines and police were dispatched to the area and upon arrival descended to the bottom of the canyon. As officers were sifting through the wreckage they located the driver outside of the truck near the wreckage.

Semitractor-trailer goes off of Interstate 15 and down a deep canyon, ripping open the trailer and cab, and killing the driver, Mohave County, Ariz., May 8, 2018 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“It appears that the driver was ejected during the crash and it was clear he was deceased when we located him,” Bottoms said.

The man was pronounced dead at the scene and the Mohave County Medical Examiner’s Office was called in.

The crash site was extensive, as wreckage was scattered over a wide area along the bottom of the canyon.

The crash investigation was hampered by the lack of information available to officers on scene, Bottoms said.

“It had to have happened in the dark, because we have no witnesses, we never got any calls reporting it, nothing,” Bottoms said.

“We have one confirmed fatality at this point,” Bottoms said.

When the Port of Entry records were checked, officers discovered there was a single occupant inside of the truck when it went through.

Missing was the time-stamp data that would have showed the time it passed through and could have helped investigators determine an approximate time of the crash, he said.

The preliminary investigation shows the semi was heading south on I-15 and approaching mile marker 23 when it went off of the right shoulder of the roadway, continued along the soft shoulder and up a small hill.

The semi launched off the edge of the cliff and was airborne for more than 70 feet before hitting the side of the hill and possibly being launched in the air a second time.

The cab of the semi hit the ground first, followed by the trailer that slammed into the rear section of the cab, ripping it open.

The trailer, hauling electronics, also tore open as it impacted the cab, strewing its contents over a wide area.

The driver’s remains will be transported to the Mohave County Medical Examiner’s Office for an autopsy. The investigation into the crash is ongoing.

Arizona Department of Public Safety, Beaver Dam/Littlefield Fire and Rescue, St. George Fire Department and the Arizona Department of Transportation responded and tended to the scene.

A second wrecker equipped with a crane was also dispatched to the scene to pull the truck and trailer, along with the trailer’s contents up from the bottom of the canyon.

This report is based on statements from police or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings. 

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  • comments May 8, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    sounds like the driver fell asleep

  • Craig May 8, 2018 at 6:22 pm

    I hope a very kind, caring person called his family. What an unnecessary, sad loss of life.

  • mmsandie May 9, 2018 at 8:18 am

    What ejected?? No seat belt.,, and no time stamped on data records??? Maybe he was driving too many hrs, and tired, maybe the no-doz he took was old…

  • Laura May 9, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    He was my uncle .. this is a nightmare for all the family , I never imagined getting this kind of news …it’s so painful …

    • SunnyInUtah May 9, 2018 at 3:52 pm

      Oh my, Laura, so very sorry to hear of this and that it was a member of your family. Prayers to you and your extended family during this very painful time.

    • comments May 9, 2018 at 4:16 pm

      sorry. it really is terrible to lose family. For what it’s worth, take comfort in that it was just an accident.

    • Heather May 10, 2018 at 9:25 pm

      So sorry for ur lose ?

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