PHOENIX - Authorities say a motorcyclist has died and two people have been transported to local hospitals after a multi-vehicle crash, and subsequent explosions, forced the closure of the southbound lanes on the Interstate 17 for hours Monday.
Tony Mure with the Phoenix Fire Department said "compressed gas cylinders" began falling out of the back of a flatbed truck traveling southbound on Interstate 17 near Thomas Road around 3 p.m. Monday.
The flatbed truck was being following by an SUV carrying a family of six, a motorcyclist and a big rig that was carrying gravel, said Mure.
As the gas cylinders began falling out of the truck, the SUV and motorcyclist tried to swerve to get out of the way, according to Phoenix fire. The driver of the big rig slammed on his brakes, but completely ran over the motorcycle and its operator.
The big rig then crashed into the SUV, which was carrying two adults and four children, said Mure. The flatbed truck which was initially carrying the gas cylinders has not been located. He said the driver may be unaware of the crash that resulted.
Highway patrol operators are currently working to locate the operator of the flatbed truck, he said.
Mure said "several fires exploded" as a result of the collisions. Officials are not sure if the explosions are a result of the compressed gas cylinders, the motorcycle's gas tank or the diesel fuel in the big rig carrying the gravel.
Fire officials said the big rig suffered a lot of damage to the cab and engine.
DPS identified the motorcyclist as 27-year-old Steven Matthew Daniels of Prescott Valley. Daniels was transported in critical condition to a local burn unit where he later died due to his injuries.
An adult female and a juvenile female were also transported as a precautionary measure, he said. They are expected to be OK, said Mure.
The southbound lanes on Interstate 17 at Thomas were closed for several hours Monday, with backups reported from Glendale Avenue. The southbound lanes were reopened around 9 p.m.
Authorities are asking anyone with information regarding the location of the flatbed truck to call Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS.