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Fatal 22-vehicle crash ensues after sandstorm engulfs Utah highway

Monday, July 26th 2021, 4:19 pm - As many as 22 vehicles were involved in Sunday’s pileup after high winds yielded a dust storm, significantly reducing visibility on the Utah roadway around 4:30 p.m. local time.

As many as eight fatalities were reported in Utah after a sandstorm swept across a highway and caused a multi-vehicle collision Sunday.

The Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS) said the dust storm resulted in eight deaths and 10 injuries, with at least three still in critical condition. Five of the eight people killed were travelling in the same vehicle.

As many as 22 vehicles were involved in Sunday’s pileup after high winds yielded a dust storm, significantly reducing visibility on the Utah roadway around 4:30 p.m. local time. The accident occurred on Interstate 15, near milepost 152. Traffic in the southbound lanes was closed until early Monday morning.

Utah Highway Patrol/pileup Images of vehicles involved in Sunday’s crash in Millard County. (Utah Highway Patrol)

A potent thunderstorm was reported to be moving southeast of Kanosh around the time of crash -- accompanied by intense winds that were occurring as the storm started to weaken.

"We want to express our deep appreciation for the Millard County Sheriff’s Office and the volunteer fire and EMS crews from Delta and Fillmore who provided medical response. This has been a heartbreaking incident for everyone who responded to this incident. The Utah Highway Patrol relies on local medical responders in these types of incidents," the Utah DPS said in a public statement.

The Utah DPS recalled the events that led to the major accident, noting the roadway became blocked after some minor crashes happened initially during the storm. From there, more collisions took place.

"The most significant crashes happened behind the semi with two vehicles becoming wedged underneath the back of the trailer. They appear to have been hit from behind by another pickup. Another vehicle appears to have sideswiped the semi-trailer, as well," the department said.

Accident/Utah Department of Public Safety (Utah Department of Public Safety (DPS))

Utah is in a region that is currently enduring some of the most extreme drought conditions in the U.S., which elevates the risk of dust storms. As of last week, the entire state was in the two most extreme drought categories, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

TIPS FOR SAFETY DURING A SANDSTORM

The department also offered some tips on motorists on what to do if caught on the road during a dust storm.

It says it is important to pay close attention to conditions and visibility on the road. When visibility is low, slow down. Drivers shouldn't outdrive their ability to manoeuvre safely.

Dust storms should be treated with the same cautionary measures as fog, and if motorists can’t see, they need to reduce their speed. If it can be done safely, drivers should go to the nearest exit, but if it’s not possible, slowing down is urged.

Thumbnail courtesy of Utah Highway Patrol.

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