Two teens killed in crash involving rolled over semi-truck on SR-87

Posted at 8:42 PM, Jul 25, 2017

Two teenagers were killed in a crash involving a rolled-over semi-truck on Tuesday night. 

The crash happened just before 7:30 p.m. on SR-87 near Shea Boulevard.

Preliminary information from the Arizona Department of Public Safety suggests that a southbound commercial vehicle failed to stop at a red light, hitting a passenger vehicle headed from Shea Boulevard onto State Route 87.

The force of the crash caused both vehicles into the northbound lanes of SR-87, hitting several other cars. 

DPS says 15-year-old Nicholas Minard of Fountain Hills died at the scene. Fourteen-year-old Kaillie Plante of Pine died at the hospital. Five other people were taken to hospitals for treatment with unknown injuries. 

Both victims attended Payson High School. Kaillie would have been a freshman and Nick was beginning his sophomore year. Counselors will be on-hand at the school Monday for students.

"It's a tragedy to lose two of our young people," Superintendent Dr. Greg Wyman said.

Fifty-four-year-old Sheila Mei, a driver who was involved in the multi-car crash, said the truck crossed over the median and nearly hit her as she was driving in the northbound lane.

"It happened so fast, like all of a sudden there's a semi-truck and you could hear the loud noise — the crunching of the cars; you could hear all of that," Mei explained. "I kind of braced for him hitting me; there was no place for me to go."

Mei says the driver was able to turn and avoid crashing into her, but when it toppled onto its side the timber in the back hit her truck. She told ABC15 that she had a discussion with the truck driver once he was able to sit on the curb.

"He asked if there were any other people involved and we told him 'yeah,'" Mei said. "A lady told him they were kids and he just kind of broke down."

The driver insisted the traffic light was yellow when he entered the intersection. However, DPS says it appears he ran a red light.

Danielle Plante, 34, Jeannie Londin, 60, were injured in the crash. Like Mei, Joy Ford, 70, was involved in the crash but not injured.

The driver of the truck has been identified as John Girssom, 51, of Tolleson. DPS says they have not ruled out distraction as the cause of the crash.  

"The investigation has not been ruled out as a distraction on the part of the commercial driver during the incident," said Raul Garcia, a public information officer with the Department of Public Safety. "Nothing thus far in the investigation points to a mechanical failure."

DPS says the investigation is ongoing.