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Blowing Dust Causes Fatal Pile-Up On Interstate 10

Three people were killed and 12 were injured in the chain-reaction collisions

Wednesday, October 30, 2013 -

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Three people were killed and a dozen motorists were injured during a dust storm that blew across Interstate 10 north of Picacho Peak on Oct. 29.

Shortly after 12:00 p.m., high winds started blowing thick brown dust into the air in a western direction across Interstate 10 just north of Picacho Peak. The interstate runs north and south in that area.

The dust storm caused little to zero visibility for drivers, resulting in a series of deadly collisions that involved a total of 21 vehicles.

Due to the collisions and the dust storm, Interstate 10 was closed in both directions at milepost 214. The initial 19 vehicle crash, which resulted in three fatalities, occurred within the westbound traffic lanes of the interstate.

A second two-vehicle crash occurred within the eastbound traffic lanes of Interstate 10 that involved minor injuries and a commercial vehicle.

A total of 12 motorists were injured as a result of the collisions and suffered injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening. All of the injured were removed or extricated from the wreckage and transported by helicopter or ground ambulance to various hospitals, including St. Joseph's Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, and University Medical Center.

Members of the United States Air Force 48th Rescue Squadron were among those providing initial care to the injured motorists. The squadron happened to be traveling through the area at the time of the dust storm and, following the collisions, they were able to triage and provided critical medical care to the majority of the patients on scene. Members of the squadron also coordinated the on-scene approach and departure of the three responding medical helicopters.

The three killed during the collisions were identified as:
Gordon Lee Smith, 76, of Mead, Washington
David D. Bechtel, 51, of Milton, Iowa
Lenny Lubers, 46, of Phoenix

Eleven of the vehicles involved in the collisions were large commercial vehicles. Due to the magnitude of the wreckage, Interstate 10 was closed in the area from about 12:00 p.m. to about 11:00 p.m.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), which is investigating the collisions, encourages drivers to plan their trips safely by studying weather conditions along their route of travel in order to avoid driving through inclement weather.

If you are caught in a dust storm, pull off the roadway as far as possible and turn off all the lights on your vehicle. Remain in the vehicle with your seatbelt on.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety is a state-level law enforcement agency whose mission is to protect human life and property by enforcing state laws, deterring criminal activity and providing vital support to the State of Arizona and its citizens.