On Sunday, July 25, 2021, at least eight people died and many others were injured when a sandstorm blowing through southwestern Utah blinded drivers and led to a crash involving nearly two dozen vehicles.
Utah Highway Patrol officials told the media that high winds caused a dust storm that impaired visibility on Interstate 15 near Kanosh, which is between Salt Lake City and St. George. The Utah crash, which happened at around 5:00 p.m. local time, involved 22 vehicles, including multiple tractor-trailers.
“No one could see, so people started stopping, and then you just get a chain reaction,” said Utah Trooper Andrew Battenfield. “Nobody could see, and then all of a sudden, you’re slamming into a car…It’s just a horrific situation.”
Victims of Kanosh, Utah Accident on Interstate 15
Five of the eight reported deaths were occupants of the same vehicle. Authorities identified them as Race Sawyer, who was the passenger vehicle driver; his son Ryder, 12; his sister-in-law, Kortni Sawyer, 30; and her children Riggins, 6, and Franki, 2. Race Sawyer’s son, Blue, sustained injuries in the crash but was later released from an area hospital. The family was making the return trip to St. George after a visit with relatives in the Salt Lake City area.
Authorities identified the other two people who tragically lost their lives as 51-year-old Richard Lorenzon and 47-year-old Maricela Lorenzon, a married couple from Salt Lake City traveling in the same vehicle.
The eighth fatality, 15-year-old Cameron Valentine of Yuma, Arizona, was in another vehicle.
Ten other victims were hospitalized with injuries, including three in critical condition.
How Did the Utah Dust Storm Accident Happen?
Law enforcement officials have indicated that the dust storm led to this tragedy. However, several other factors are involved:
- Photographs of the crash scene show passenger vehicles underneath or hanging from tractor-trailers in the aftermath of the sand storm. When a dangerous weather event like this happens, tractor-trailer drivers must slow and pull over to the side of the road so they can avoid other vehicles. While an investigation into this fatal accident is ongoing, officials will need to determine if the tractor-trailer drivers operated these vehicles safely and responsibly in the moments before the pileup.
- Landowners adjacent to highways are responsible for maintaining their property to keep dust storms from eliminating visibility for motorists. “Dust storm events are often entirely foreseeable,” says board-certified attorney Ronald L. M. Goldman. “And there are well-established ways to minimize, if not totally prevent, the serious consequences we saw in this tragedy in Utah.”
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As committed safety advocates for the motoring public, Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman truck accident lawyers have been calling for advanced safety systems on trucks for years. Data shows that semi-trucks with collision avoidance systems—including automatic braking, electric stability control, and lane deviation warning—help reduce the number of truck accidents and keep highway travelers safer. It is our belief that many tragic incidents could be avoided if truck manufacturers, owners, and operators invested in safety when designing, manufacturing, buying, and operating tractor-trailers.
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