Eight people — four adults and four children under 15 — were killed in a multiple-vehicle crash near Kanosh on Sunday, as drivers were blinded by a sandstorm.
The Utah Highway Patrol reported Monday that 10 people were taken to local hospitals Sunday after the series of crashes, which involved 22 vehicles.
Five of the dead were members of the same family, traveling in a Buick, according to UHP. They were: Race Sawyer, 37, of Lehi, who was driving, and his son, Rider, 12; Kortni Sawyer, 30, of St. George, who was Race’s sister-in-law, and her son, Riggins, 6, and daughter, Franki, 2.
UHP also said a married couple in a Hyundai were killed: Richard Lorenzon, 51, who was driving, and Maricela Lorenzon, 47, both from Salt Lake City. According to Maricela’s Facebook page, they had four daughters.
A 15-year-old boy, Cameron Valentine of Yuma, Ariz. — who was a passenger in a Cadillac — also was killed, UHP reported.
Members of the Sawyer family have launched a GoFundMe account, which as of Monday afternoon had raised more than $123,000 to help with medical bills, funeral costs and other expenses.
According to the GoFundMe page, Kortni Sawyer’s husband, Mason, was awaiting his family’s arrival in St. George; their surviving son, Blue, was released from a hospital Monday. Race Sawyer is survived by his wife, Keshia, and two children, Faith and Ran.
The collisions happened about 4:30 p.m. on Interstate 15 near milepost 152, between the Meadow and Kanosh exits in Millard County, about 150 miles south of Salt Lake City.
The crashes happened, UHP officials said, when high winds kicked up sand or dust, which impaired drivers’ visibility on the highway.
According to the UHP, the series of collisions started with several minor crashes blocking the freeway. Then a semi-trailer truck, as it was slowing down to stop, rear-ended a pickup truck. UHP reported that the most serious crashes happened behind the semi, as two vehicles became wedged under the back of the trailer. Those vehicles were then hit from behind by another pickup, while another vehicle apparently sideswiped the trailer.
Traffic was halted overnight on both sides of the interstate while UHP investigated the accident, and traffic was diverted through Meadow and Kanosh on State Route 133 before being allowed back on the freeway. By late morning, traffic was reopened in both directions.
In a tweet posted Sunday night, Gov. Spencer Cox said he was “stunned and saddened” by the crashes. “We fervently pray for the loved ones of those who perished and for those fighting for their lives,” Cox tweeted.
UHP troopers from Richfield and Beaver responded to the crashes, as did the Millard County Sheriff’s Office and volunteer firefighters and EMTs from Delta and Fillmore. Multiple ambulances, both on the ground and in the air, transported victims to hospitals.
The UHP advises motorists to treat sandstorms and dust storms the way one would drive in fog: Slow down when visibility is low, and don’t overdrive your ability to maneuver safely. “If you can’t see, you need to reduce your speed,” a UHP statement said.