PHOENIX - A fiery crash that killed a mother and her five children happened after she made a U-turn in an interstate median and a semi-trailer hit her vehicle from behind, authorities said Friday.
DPS officials say the crash, which involved three vehicles, took place on Interstate 10 at milepost 82 at 1:21 p.m.
The crash split Natisha Moffett’s car in half, and it burst into flames, killing the 35-year-old Phoenix resident and her children, all of whom were 18 or younger, the Arizona Department of Public Safety said.
"A tractor-trailer was eastbound in the #2 lane when for an unknown reason, it rear-ended a Nissan Altima with five people onboard. The force of the impact split the Nissan passenger vehicle in half," stated DPS' Bart Graves.
Victims were headed to California
On July 4, the six victims were identified as Natisha Moffett, Jo’syia Moffett, 17, Giovanni Thomas-Blakney, 16, Santari Witherspoon Jr., 16, Makayla Thomas-Blakney, 5, Malik Thomas-Blakney Jr., 8.
Moffett was taking her children to California to celebrate the July 4th weekend when they were killed. She moved to Arizona from Michigan two years ago to pursue her dreams.
Kwame Delbridge, her brother and uncle to her children, said the whole family is traumatized by what happened.
"We're hurting very bad right now. We really don't even know what to do right now," he said. Delbridge was supposed to also go on the trip but couldn't last minute.
Cars crossed median before crash; suspect identified
On July 8, DPS officials released a statement, identifying the suspect as 35-year-old Iyona Holton.
Her friend Natisha Moffett had been traveling on Interstate 10 west of Phoenix ahead of Holton, who was in another vehicle, officials said. Holt got a flat tire and called Moffett to say she was going to cross the median to get to a safer location to seek help. She told Moffett to follow her, according to court documents.
"Investigators determined the two passenger vehicles, a GMC Envoy and a Nissan Altima, were initially traveling westbound on I-10. Both vehicles drove into and through the dirt median, a marked ‘No U-Turn’ zone, in order to turn around and travel eastbound on I-10. As the GMC and Nissan vehicles entered the eastbound travel lanes, they were struck by a commercial tractor-trailer," read a portion of the statement.
Although there was enough space on the side of the interstate to pull off safely, the two vehicles crossed the median in a no U-turn zone, authorities said. They pulled into one of the traffic lanes and were going about 15 mph (24 kph) when they were struck by the semi-trailer that was going under the speed limit at 73 mph (117 kph), authorities said.
Everyone in Moffett’s car died in the July 2 crash. The surviving friend and her four children, who range in age from 2 to 14, suffered injuries that included cuts, fractures and a brain bleed, according to court documents. Department of Public Safety spokesman Bart Graves said Friday that the children remain hospitalized.
The friend is not facing any charges related to the deaths of Moffett or her children, Graves said. The details of the crash weren’t released until Thursday.
Holton, according to investigators, was driving the GMC. Officials say Holton, who is accused of four counts of aggravated assault and two other counts of drug-related offenses, has been booked into the Maricopa County Jail.
The four assault charges relate to her actions while driving and the injuries of her children, Graves said. The two drug charges apparently stemmed from a white powdery substance and a partly melted straw that a hospital security guard found in the woman’s purse, according to court documents.
An investigation is ongoing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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