PHOENIX - Authorities say two people were killed and several others injured in a crash on Interstate 17 Saturday.
According to the Department of Public Safety, the single-vehicle accident occurred at 9:53 a.m. northbound between Black Canyon City and Cordes Junction.
DPS Sgt. Jim Haas said the accident happened when a tire on a pickup truck blew out and the driver lost control of the vehicle, driving it into a ditch where it flipped and rolled several times.
Officials say five people were in the cab of the truck and three in the bed. They were part of a youth group from My Friend’s House Family Worship Center in Phoenix.
Those inside the truck were all reportedly wearing seatbelts except the female driver, who was thrown from the vehicle, according to Haas. She was apparently the mother of at least two others in the truck and was seriously hurt.
Two males in the bed of the truck, a 19-year-old named Joseph and 20-year-old named Miguel, were killed; a third was critically injured.
DPS says all six injured in the crash were air-lifted to Valley hospitals; three in critical condition and the others in serious condition. Apparently, the least injured was a 12-year-old boy with a broken wrist.
Pastor Zeke Rodriguez of My Friend’s House said the group was with five other cars headed to Slide Rock, in Oak Creek Canyon, for the weekend.
"These boys grew up from little boys with us,” Rodriguez said. “We were like their family. We loved them very much."
Pastor Rodriguez owned the truck that crashed. He said he can not believe a blown tire was the cause of the accident because he had the tires on his truck inspected before the trip.
The interstate was closed for hours, backing up traffic for miles and miles. All lanes of the freeway are now open.
At the hospital, friends, family and church members clung together for support and to pray for their loved ones fighting to recover.
"They did nothing wrong. It wasn't their fault. They did everything right. We prayed. These things happen in life. These were my family, my kids and we need your prayers," Rodriguez pleaded.
A memorial service for Joseph and Miguel is planned for Sunday. It will be 10 a.m. at My Friend’s House Family Worship Center at 3464 W. Earll Drive in Phoenix.
DPS said the truck was not in violation of the law by having the three men ride in the bed. As long as every seat in the cab is filled, passengers can legally ride in the bed of a truck according to DPS.
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