BLACK CANYON CITY, Ariz. - A semi truck driver was likely impaired when he crashed on Interstate 17, causing commuters to be stranded on the highway for hours overnight, according to the Arizona Dept. of Public Safety.
The driver had reportedly walked away from the crash site and wasn't found until hours later, when he was caught knocking on the door of a home in Black Canyon City miles away from the crash site.
According to DPS spokesman Bart Graves, the collision had happened in the southbound lanes of I-17 at milepost 246 just after 9 p.m. on March 9.
A tractor-trailer was hauling freight when the driver, "possibly impaired by drugs," lost control on a turn and crashed, blocking all the lanes and causing severe damage to the semi. The axles became completely detached from the trailer, Graves said.
Authorities were unable to reroute traffic because the semi had crashed in a construction zone and had fully blocked the travel lanes and shoulder of the highway.
"There was no place to get vehicles around the collision," Graves said. "There was also difficulty in getting an available heavy-duty tow truck to the scene to remove the semi. Eventually we had to bring equipment in from Phoenix, and it had to travel wrong way to get to the scene."
The delays worsened due to the damage sustained by the trailer, as it needed to be offloaded before it could be cleared off the highway.
Troopers originally thought the semi driver had died and spent a significant amount of time using K-9s and a helicopter to find him.
Stranded drivers speak out
The crash stranded a number of drivers on the I-17, including McKay Wescott, who was driving down from Northern Utah and into Phoenix with his friends Ben, Connor, and Danny, and Grant.
"We got on the onramp, pulled in, stopped," Wescott recounted. "Didn't move an inch for the total of two-and-a-half, three hours."
Trying to make the best of it, Wescott and his friends took photos, and met their fellow stranded travelers.
"Most cars were turned off," Grant said. "Many people were sleeping. We saw someone knitting or crocheting."
Truck driver involved found in Black Canyon City area
The driver, who was not identified, was found outside a Black Canyon City home four miles from the collision.
"I woke up hearing banging noises outside the door," said James Cutri, describing what happened at around 4:00 a.m. "This guy is outside just tugging at my door, yanking on it, trying to get in, moaning, and making all these noises and stuff."
Surveillance video captured what happened outside Cutri's home.
"I have no place to go," said the man, apparently thinking the home wan a hotel or an airbnb. "I made reservations for two nights, brother."
"Ragged clothes. I didn't see a car out there, so he just walked up from out of the dark. So very suspicious," said Cutri.
That man, according to DPS officials, was the driver involved in the crash. Cutri's 911 call eventually brought troopers to the driver.
"It was a lot to process all at once," said Cutri.
He faces possible charges of DUI and leaving the scene of a crash. Currently, he is being medically evaluated.