Six killed in I-10 pileup caused by dust in Arizona

Posted at 7:27 AM, Jun 20, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-21 09:15:47-04

Six people died in a 25-vehicle pileup caused by a sudden dust storm along an interstate highway in New Mexico where such conditions have caused deadly collisions in the past, authorities said.

Those killed in the incident Monday near the Arizona border were a 6-month-old girl and her parents from Phoenix, two people from El Paso, Texas, and a California woman.

The high winds and limited visibility caused 18 commercial trucks and seven passenger cars to crash on westbound Interstate 10.

The stretch of highway near rural Lordsburg has seen other deadly crashes and closures due to similar conditions stemming from the desert landscape and a dry lakebed.

"It's a topographical area in which the winds come through where there's nothing that can be done to prevent it," state police spokesman Carl Christiansen said.

In February, two women were killed when their car got sandwiched between two semi-trucks in a dust storm.

Christiansen said the state has aired public service announcements and posted signs that span 100 miles (160 kilometers), warning drivers about sudden winds.

Drivers are advised to pull over when visibility is low and to wait until the dust settles to resume driving.

 In May 2014, seven people died when a driver suddenly hit the brakes as blowing dust shrouded visibility. A 9-year-old girl was among the dead in the chain reaction crash that followed.

"It's never easy. It doesn't get easier each time," Christiansen said.

Most of the vehicles involved in the crash Monday were semi-trucks that use I-10 to transport goods across the country.

The highway was closed until early Tuesday, forcing drivers to use a long detour on a two-lane highway. Christiansen said towing the damaged vehicles was a slow process and the area lacked enough tow trucks.

The victims were identified as Jose Manuel Clemente, 77, and Maurella Clemente Munoz, 38, of El Paso, Texas; Jose Elias Caraveo-Serrano, 30, and Susana Caraveo, 29, of Phoenix, along with their 6-month-old girl; and Josefina Silva, 47, of Escondido, California.

A GoFundMe account has been started for the Valley family.