|This wrong way crash near Black Canyon City over Memorial Day weekend killed 2 people and injured another, closing the interstate for 4 hours.|
Interstate 17 was a mess over the Memorial Day weekend, and Mayer Fire crews were among emergency personnel who responded to several fatality and injury accidents that stopped traffic for hours.
DPS spokesman Capt. Daniel Golden said this past week that while long delays irritate drivers, they are necessary for proper investigation of serious accidents.
On Saturday morning, May 25, Mayer responded to assist Black Canyon City Fire when a wrong-way driver collided with several cars in the southbound lane of I-17.
Two people, the wrong-way driver, a 77-year-old Black Canyon City woman, and a person in one of the vehicles she collided with, a 29-year-old Flagstaff woman, died. A third person in the four-car accident was air-evaced with life-threatening injuries. At last report, that person is now in critical but stable condition, Golden said.
He said a DPS officer was traveling in the southbound lane and nearly became a victim himself.
"Our officer was responding to a separate incident, a northbound collision, when he encountered the wrong-way driver at the ramp out of Black Canyon City. He had enough time to react and save his own life, and then as they passed each other she went off the side of the road. He tried to hustle so he could warn people, but she continued north and went around the corner and before he could do anything, she had the collision," Golden said.
The accident closed I-17 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Golden said, which annoyed some holiday drivers. He explained why such accidents often close roadways for a long period of time.
"We're basically doing a homicide investigation. We owe it to the victims' family to completely and thoroughly investigate the scene. Even though the (wrong-way driver) died, we can tell the families what happened. Peoples' lives have been lost, and we are not willing to rush through the investigation," he said, adding that proper investigation is crucial if there are charges related to the accident.
Golden praised all of the people and agencies who worked together to warn drivers so secondary accidents did not occur in the Memorial Day accidents.
"We were able to turn people around, that was a huge accomplishment. Through message boards, ADOT alerts, and news websites, we work with all of our partners to let people know there is an incident, so people are not coming around the corner at freeway speeds and finding traffic stopped. We're trying to prevent further damage," Golden said.
Travelers can find information on their route before hitting the road by dialing 511 from landline or mobile phones, or visiting www.az511.gov. Travelers may also receive alerts by following ADOT on Twitter.