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Four Dead in Dust Storm West of Phoenix

Four dead, 42 injured as dust storm triggers fiery crashes

TONOPAH, Ariz. (AP) - Four people died and 42 others were injured in a series of chain-reaction interstate highway accidents during a blinding dust storm, authorities said.
Nearly two dozen vehicles, including a passenger bus and 12 tractor-trailers, were involved in crashes on both sides of Interstate 10 Wednesday evening. The westbound bus was apparently a charter and belonged to Americano USA, said Officer Norman Jones of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. He said the bus was westbound but he did not know its point of origin or its destination. There were three separate accidents. Two of them occurred in the Tonopah area, about 45 miles west of Phoenix. The third took place 75 miles west of Phoenix. "This dust storm came in pretty quick," said DPS Officer Erick Anspach. "Some drivers reported having only a second or two until impact." The accidents shut down the interstate and emergency crews initially had a tough time reaching the crash scene, according to the DPS. "We could see nothing but dust and smoke" upon arriving, said firefighter Nate Ryan. Ambulances and numerous medical helicopters transported victims to several Phoenix-area hospitals, DPS spokesman Steve Volden said. The injuries ranged from cuts and scrapes to life-threatening injuries. Several of the vehicles caught fire after the collisions, Volden said. A line of crashed vehicles extended for about a quarter of a mile. One big truck had its nose pushed under the trailer of another. A skeletal frame was all that was left of another truck. One of the dead victims was in a car that had become wedged under a truck, said Volden. Another fatality was a truck driver. Volden said 24 people were on the bus, including two drivers. It still was not known Thursday whether any of the injured or dead had been on the bus, said Jones. One of the two eastbound lanes of I-10 was still closed Thursday near Tonopah, while westbound traffic was still detoured.

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Last modified 2004-09-01 08:27 AM

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