CHANDLER, AZ - Two people were killed and six others injured Monday night in a wrong-way crash involving multiple vehicles on southbound State Route 347.
According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, 70-year-old Karen Ankiewcz from Sun City West was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes around 8:30 p.m. before hitting a vehicle head-on near Riggs Road.
Ankiewicz was pronounced dead at the scene.
DPS said the driver of the vehicle that was traveling in the correct direction also died from her injuries. Family identified the victim as 26-year-old Julissa Torres of Maricopa.
A 26-year-old man and two young children were also in the vehicle. The man and a 4-year-old child were transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. A 1-year-old was treated for injuries on the scene.
A third vehicle was also involved in a secondary crash after the head-on collision. The driver, a 57-year-old man, and a 13-year-old passenger were transported to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. A 15-year-old was also in the vehicle and was treated and released.
Officials said Ankiewicz was traveling alone in her vehicle. It is unknown if impairment played a role in the crash.
The southbound lanes of SR-347 were closed at Riggs Road for about seven hours but have since reopened.
Monday’s crash is the 13th media-reported wrong-way incident in the Phoenix metro area in 2018. See more on the incidents in the map below.
A GoFundMe has been set up for the "care and support" of the Torres family.
Torres' aunt spoke to ABC15 by phone on Wednesday.
"My two great-nieces love their mother dearly," said Shaton Lynch Wolverton. "They were attached to her at the hip. I know that she is going to be thoroughly missed."
Lynch Wolverton told ABC15 Julissa grew up in Illinois and moved back to Arizona for the second time last year. She says Julissa was returning home from visiting her fiancée's family in Chandler when the crash happened. Julissa, her fiancée and her two daughters were in the vehicle.
"Anytime there's a loss of life you want to know why this happened," Lynch Wolverton said. "My niece did not deserve this. For me, I don't care why. I lost my niece. My sister lost her firstborn child. Our family is absolutely devastated."
Lynch Wolverton expressed gratitude to everyone in Arizona who has reached out to her family in support. She says Julissa was an integral part of their large family.
"She was not just beautiful on the outside, she was beautiful on the inside," Lynch Wolverton said. "She was a young mother who had the American dream like we all do."
This crash was the first wrong-way incident in May. In April, there were two wrong-way incidents in the East Valley.