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‘It’s not normal’; UHP hopes to assess section of I-15 after 8 semis lose control over 2 weeks

Southern Utah

ST. GEORGE (St. George News) — Utah Highway Patrol is asking engineers to assess a section of Interstate 15 just north of Leeds after eight semi-trucks have rolled or slid off of the road over the past two weeks.

A semitractor-trailer is seen on its side near Pintura on the southbound side of Interstate 15 on the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. The incident and another nearby at around the same time were the seventh and eighth involving a semi in the last two weeks in the area. | Photo by Shane Brinkerhoff, St. George News

UHP Sgt. Jake Hicks told St. George News this many incidents is not normal but does seem to be following a pattern, which is concerning for UHP troopers. Most of the accidents have occurred near the Anderson Junction and Toquerville offramp of the I-15.

“It’s not normal to have this many crashes, especially with semi trucks, in this location,” he said. “This is uncommon, and I know it’s being looked into. We’re just like everyone else, we want to know why this is happening.”

UHP doesn’t engineer highways, Hicks said, but the organization is working with the Utah Department of Transportation to investigate the potential causes. The bottom line, he said, is that people need to slow down.

The latest two accidents involving semis in the general area took place right around the same time after 3:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

A semi hauling two trailers overturned at mile marker 33 near Pintura. The truck was overturned on the right shoulder but still effectively blocked the right lane of the southbound I-15.

Five miles further south, at mile marker 28, a semi jackknifed, with the trailer portion falling to its side. This time, the far left lane was blocked.

Earlier Sunday afternoon at 12:15 p.m., a FedEx semi pulling two trailers hit a patch of wet road during heavy rainfall and felt his trailers begin to jackknife on southbound I-15 near mile marker 30, Hicks said. The driver was able to keep the semi on its wheels as slid off of the road and into the median. There were no injuries, and traffic was not impacted, which Hicks said was very lucky.

On Saturday just after 4:30 p.m., a southbound semi lost control and rolled off the interstate. Troopers responded to the incident near mile marker 29 where the semi had traveled 30-50 feet off the roadway before falling 15 feet into the ditch.

The rear end of the semi’s trailer was blocking traffic in the inner lane, and the driver was stuck in the car due to the nature of the incident. Adams said troopers were able to get the 44-year-old man out of the vehicle before medical teams arrived. The driver was medically assessed at the scene and signed a waiver, ultimately choosing not to be transported to the nearest hospital.

A jackknifed semitractor-trailer at mile marker 28, 5 miles north of Leeds on the southbound side of Interstate 15 on the afternoon of Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019. The incident and another nearby at around the same time were the seventh and eighth involving a semi in the last two weeks in the area.| Photo by Shane Brinkerhoff, St. George News

The driver told troopers he was traveling in the outside lane and although it wasn’t currently raining, the roads were wet from previous precipitation. The driver said he felt the trailer start to jackknife and attempted to correct to maneuver before he drifted into the left lane and lost control, colliding with the guard rail on the left shoulder.

The semi damaged about 300 feet of the guard rail before the truck rolled off the embankment. The truck — a 2017 Freightliner with a total weight of about 57,000 lbs. — landed on its right, passenger side.

Traffic in the area was reduced to one lane for upwards of six hours as troopers cleared the scene. Utah Department of Transportation Incident Management were on scene with electronic boards warning drivers of the slow down and asking them to reduce their speeds.

As drivers approached the scene and vehicles experienced stop-and-go traffic, two additional accidents at mile marker 31 occurred at 7:45 p.m. Adams said a vehicle in the left lane was barely able to stop after approaching a vehicle that had stopped to merge into the only open lane. Another vehicle couldn’t make the quick stop and rear-ended the driver, which in turn hit the car in front of it.

Moments later in the same lane, another vehicle collided into a different stopped vehicle. Five vehicles, in total, were involved in the two collisions.

“That’s due to the people who don’t pay attention to the traffic signs and the warning signs,” Adams said. “It’s a result of people not looking at those boards and looking ahead and paying attention to the roadway.”

The Hurricane Valley Fire Department, Hurricane Valley EMS, and Washington County Sheriff’s Office also responded to the incident. The scene was cleared just before 10:30 p.m.

Officials respond to the scene of a single-vehicle rollover on Interstate 15 involving a semi, Toquerville, Utah, Dec. 7, 2019 | Photo by Ryne Williams, St. George News

Saturday’s incident is still under investigation as officials wait for the trucking company to send them information from the truck’s computer.

As winter approaches and with parts of Southern Utah already experiencing freezing temperatures, the roads become slick and more dangerous.

“We need to slow down and reduce our speeds in any sort of inclement weather,” Adams said.

While first responders were attempting to clear the scene of all three accidents, and even with the computerized signs from UDOT asking drivers to slow down, Adams said there were a number of vehicles that sped past officers well over the posted speed limit.

Updated Dec. 8 at 5:06 p.m. – Since the initial publishing of this story, two more incidents involving semi tractor-trailers occurred Sunday afternoon in the same area that is delaying traffic. Motorists are advised to use caution and expect delays traveling through this area.

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