A late morning dust storm Tuesday created a devastating accident scene on Interstate 10, about a mile south of McCartney Road, that the Arizona Department of Public Safety’s Officer Robert Bailey described as the worst he’s ever responded to in his seven years with the department.
The scene was the combination of a twelve-vehicle pile-up, consisting of six commercial vehicles and six passenger cars, and a ten-vehicle crash consisting of seven semi-trucks and three passenger vehicles. Witnesses said one of the trucks in the forward collision exploded, igniting a major fire that consumed the majority of the vehicles involved. The wreckage resembled a war zone.
The accident claimed the life of 17 year-old Katie Eide and her 14 year-old brother Mark, both of Casa Grande. The Eides were riding in a Jeep Cherokee on their way to the Dairy Queen at Picacho Peak.Also falling victim to the chaos was 25 year-old Edgar Ivan Medina Vargas of Iowa City, Iowa. Vargas was killed when his GMC pickup was smashed between the trailer of a stopped semi and a trailer-less semi, driven by his father, who had been following him.
Many others were injured. Five patients were airlifted to various local hospitals and two more were transported by ground ambulance. Two commercial vehicle drivers, plus three children and their parents were treated on-scene and released.According to Bailey, the farm fields which lie adjacent to the freeway were recently plowed. Heavy winds from an approaching thunderstorm blew the loose dirt across the traffic lanes resulting in near zero visibility.
Bailey stressed the need for motorists to use caution when encountering low visibility from blowing dust on the roadways. “What we want you to do is pull off the road altogether and turn off your lights,” the officer said. “Several folks did that today and it saved their lives.” Bailey added that drivers should pull completely off the pavement and as close to the roadside fence as possible. “You’d rather be stuck in the dirt and mud than involved in something like that,” the officer said, indicating the gruesome wreckage behind him.
Both the west and eastbound lanes of I-10 were closed for about three hours. The road was opened to westbound traffic around 2:00 pm. The eastbound lanes remained closed, with traffic being diverted onto McCartney, until around 8:30.