PHOENIX - A fiery crash involving eight vehicles on the Loop 202 Red Mountain left four people dead and nine others injured, authorities said.
The crash happened just after 10 p.m. on June 9 when a semi-truck pulling a tanker filled with milk "failed to slow for traffic congestion in the area of 52nd and Van Buren Streets and collided with seven passenger vehicles," the Arizona Department of Public Safety said on June 10.
Following the collision, the tanker separated from the truck and crossed over the concrete median wall into westbound lanes of traffic. The semi-truck ignited and was destroyed by the fire.
After arriving at the scene, Phoenix firefighters extinguished the fire and discovered the tanker was leaking milk and diesel fuel.
Firefighters extricated multiple victims from the vehicles.
Four people were pronounced dead at the scene.
- 35-year-old Sedeqwa Keyara-Parker of Phoenix
- 21-year-old Alexius Hooper of Phoenix
- 20-year-old Dante Brubeck of Casa Grande
- 20-year-old Jennifer Vidal of Casa Grande
Six people – two men in their 20s, a woman in her 20s, a 22-year-old man, a 45-year-old man, and a 42-year-old woman – were transported to hospitals in critical condition.
Three other people, a 23-year-old man, a 22-year-old man, and a 6-year-old girl, were hospitalized in stable condition.
One other man was evaluated at the scene and refused transport to the hospital.
DPS says impairment was not a factor in the crash.
Federal investigators heading to Phoenix
On June 10, the Associated Press reported that the National Transportation Safety Board is sending nine investigators to conduct a safety probe into the crash, in cooperation with DPS.
Among the issues that NTSB investigators will study is whether the crash could have been prevented if the tanker was equipped with electronic safety devices, board spokesman Chris O’Neil said. "Automatic emergency braking is definitely something we want to take a look at," he said.
At present, there are no federal requirements that semis have forward collision warning or automatic emergency braking, even though the systems are becoming common on smaller passenger vehicles.
The systems use cameras and sometimes radar to see objects in front of a vehicle, and they either warn the driver or slow and even stop the vehicle if it’s about to hit something.
O’Neil said investigators will determine if the tanker had any advanced safety equipment and if so, how it performed in the crash. If it didn’t have the systems, they will determine if "collision avoidance technology would have mitigated the severity or prevented it altogether," he said.
The NTSB, he said, has investigated several crashes involving big trucks hitting stopped or slowed traffic. As early as 2015, the NTSB recommended that manufacturers should immediately include electronic safety systems as standard equipment. At the time, the agency said the systems could prevent or mitigate more than 80% of the rear-end collisions that cause about 1,700 deaths and a half-million injuries annually.
20 automakers representing 99% of U.S. new passenger vehicle sales signed a voluntary agreement with the government in 2016 to make the feature standard on all light vehicles by Sept. 1, 2022, and many companies are progressing toward that goal.
O’Neil said the team heading to the crash scene included members with experience in motor carriers, highway design, occupant protection, human performance, vehicle factors and technical crash reconstruction.
Investigators also will try to determine if driver distraction played a role, he said.
"Our investigators will look at the people involved in the crash, the vehicles involved in the crash and the environment in which the crash happened," O’Neil said.
Investigators generally stay on the scene for five to 10 days, and they publish a preliminary report 30 to 90 days after finishing their field work. Investigations usually take 12 to 24 months to complete.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.
The freeway has been reopened in both directions.
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