DPS: 2 dead, 2 injured after wrong-way crash near Chandler

- Authorities say two people are dead and two others were hospitalized after a wrong-way crash on Interstate 10 near Chandler.

Arizona Department of Public Safety officials say the head-on collision occurred at about 1 p.m. Tuesday. They say an SUV was traveling eastbound on the westbound ramp and crashed into a pickup truck.

DPS officials say the SUV's driver, 63-year-old Jeremiah Trotter, and a passenger, 28-year-old Bennett Vella, were pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the pickup truck and a passenger were taken to a hospital and authorities say both men are in critical condition.

In covering the wrong-way crashes of recent weeks, you start to understand how helpless law enforcement is in this situation.

The last entrance point at Pecos Road is 40th Street and that means the people traveling in that SUV drove at freeway speeds for more than a mile and a half before the crash. 90 seconds to react, only one lane on the ramp and no way out.

Senseless, in the middle of the day. Tuesday's wrong-way crash on the Pecos Road ramp goes against all the statistics.

"Statistically, we are seeing that wrong-way incidents and those crashes are in the dark hours. Between 11:00 p.m. and 4:00 a.m., so although this has happened before during daylight hours, it does not happen as often as the dark hours," said DPS Public Information Officer Raul Garcia.

An Arizona Department of Transportation study from 2004 to 2014 shows that 76 percent of wrong-way crashes happen between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Three out of four. Tuesday's incident was that one crash.

"Throughout the valley highways in the state, there are indicators by the reflective buttons that divide the traffic lanes to wrong way signs. Just the fact that as you look here behind us as you pan back there isn't any information for you on the signs when you're traveling the wrong way on the highway," said Garcia.

But a rash of wrong-way crashes continues to startle the valley.

On Halloween night, a horrific crash happened on the Loop 101 when a drunken driver slammed into another car, killing them both. Bystanders noticed he was drunk and actually tried to prevent him from getting on the freeway.

Weeks later, 23-year-old Sarah Castillo-Cornejo, a mother of two, was killed just hours after celebrating Thanksgiving with her family after she went the wrong way on Interstate 10 and struck a Greyhound bus. Investigators say she may have been drunk.

Four days later, a mangled mess in the Anthem area after a wrong-way driver slammed into another car. Two people were seriously hurt.

On December 6, Salt River Police were able to stop a wrong-way driver on Loop 101.

Right now, the answer is nothing and while ADOT continues to test new technology, they know spike strips won't help.

"The spike sticks tend to break off, they become that type of a maintenance issue, they can damage other vehicles," said ADOT spokesperson Doug Nintzel.

The ramp opened up around 7:00 p.m. and wasn't much of a traffic factor throughout the day.

DPS would not go into any detail on whether they found any evidence of impairment for the SUV's driver.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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