A series of I-10 crashes occurred Tuesday, killing three and injuring 12 others in a 19 vehicle pile-up on the Arizona interstate that connects Phoenix and Tuscon.
The crashes, which occurred around the same time, happened shortly before noon just south of the Arizona city of Casa Grande, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS). Seven passenger cars, 10 commercial vehicles, a tanker and one recreational vehicle were involved in the massive I-10 crash, CBS News reported
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"It looks like one big event right now but in reality it's probably a series of collisions," DPS Capt. Brian Preston told reporters. "So you may have collisions one and two that became part of three and four."
Henry Wallace, who managed to escape the accident jumping out from his car immediately before it was hit by another vehicle, spoke to CBS Phoenix affiliate KPHO-TV about the I-10 crash
"One truck hit another truck. Cars start piling into each other, and they pushed that one truck right into me and off to the side of the road," Wallace said. "I couldn't see anything because the (dust) was so thick, but I could just hear it, 'Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom."'
The multi-vehicle crash was so severe that more than eight hours after it occurred, traffic remained backed up 10 miles in both directions, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation. Local military personnel with medical backgrounds were called in to help first responders with the rescue effort, KPHO-TV reported.
Though it is unclear what caused the I-10 crashes, DPS Officer Carrick Cook suggested to the Associated Press
that they could have been caused by a dust storm.
"That area of I-10 is historically known for these blowing dust storms that come through," Cook said. "At the time of this crash, there were reports that there was zero visibility in the road, and with these dynamic systems that come through so quickly, people are often surprised by it."
Shortly before the crashes, the National Weather Service issued a dust blowing advisory for the area with wind gusts reaching 30 mph.
"A steady southwest wind created channels of dense, blowing dust," weather service meteorologist Chris Dunn told KPHO. "Unfortunately, one of those localized channels of dust ended up over a busy Arizona interstate."
Of the three individuals killed in the massive pile-up was 76-year-old Gordon Lee Smith of Mead, Wash. Police have yet to release the identities of the other two deceased individuals.
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