PHOENIX - DPS investigators are investigating a wrong-way driving accident that killed a Mesa Police officer.
Thirty-three drivers called 911 early Monday morning after spotting a motorist traveling along Arizona highways in the wrong direction.
“When the first calls begin it is always chaotic,” said Bart Graves, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
DPS says the first calls started coming in near Frank Loyd Wright and the 101.
“One-way drivers move so quickly, they are getting on and off freeways. We are just trying to get officers to where they were last seen,” said Graves.
The driver continued the wrong way down the the 51, Interstate 10 before merging onto the HOV ramp of the US 60. That’s where he collided with Mesa Police Officer Brandon Mendoza, killing the officer and himself.
“We were bound and determined to do anything we could to stop this guy,” said Graves.
DPS says the wrong-way driver traveled more than 30 miles in just 22 minutes before crashing into the officer, who was on his way home from work.
Richard Ruiz was among the people who saw headlights heading straight for him as he was heading home from work on the 51.
Luckily he says instinct kicked in saving him from a head-on crash.
"Right away I moved over cause he was getting closer and closer." Ruiz said.
Even after avoiding that driver he was filled with worry as he realized the SUV didn’t stop.
"I was looking in my rearview mirror and could see he was still hugging the concrete and I could see all the debris flying." Ruiz said.
“30 miles is like a flash on the freeway,” said Graves.
A DPS officer attempted to cut the suspect off, but the driver was able to move around the officer, said Graves.
Fourteen DPS officers were working the graveyard shift in the east and central valley. Nine of those where able to respond to calls regarding the wrong-way driver, who had yet to be identified. The five other officers were on other calls, including a traffic accident and a DUI incident.
DPS is not releasing the identity of the wrong way driver until the Medical Examiner’s office positively ID's the suspect. They are also waiting for toxicology results to determine if drugs and alcohol were a factor.