Child killed, 8 people injured in storm-related wrecks on Loop 101 in E. Valley

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by Catherine Holland

Video report by Jill Galus

Posted on July 9, 2014 at 8:23 AM

Updated Friday, Jul 11 at 12:16 PM

PHOENIX -- One person is dead and eight more are hurt after a series of late-night wrecks on Loop 101.

There were four separate crashes south of University Drive within a 30-minute time span Tuesday night, possibly because of the monsoon storm that swept through.

The worst of the crashes involved three vehicles.

According to Bart Graves of the Arizona Department of Public Safety, an SUV hit a Nissan that was stopped in the roadway. A Volkswagen van then rear-ended the SUV, trapping a 1-year-old girl and her mother in the SUV's back seat.

The child, Nicole Rivera, was pronounced dead at Maricopa County Medical Center.

Her mother, Diana Mendivil, and father, Isaac Rivera, both 21, suffered life-threatening injuries and were taken to Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn.

DPS investigators believe Isaac Rivera was the front-seat passenger. They said the driver of the SUV, Josue Rivera, 19, suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

Investigators said the driver of the van, Dixie Lyn Richarz-Benedic, 34, also suffered injuries that were not life-threatening.

The driver of the Nissan was not hurt. It's not clear why that driver had stopped in the roadway.

The wreck is still under investigation, but early indications are that weather was a factor.

"There was heavy rain falling at the time of the collision," Graves wrote in an email to media outlets.

According to ADOT, such wrecks are relatively common when monsoon storms roll through the Valley, often dropping visibility to near zero.

"Drivers need to slow down whenever the weather acts up, whether it's wind or rain," ADOT spokesman Garin Groff said. "Expect the unexpected."

"Slowing down is a big thing," he continued. "You want some extra space between you and that car in front of you."

Groff also said it's best to avoid driving during a dust storm if possible.

"If you find yourself in a dust storm where the visibility is really dropping, you want to check to make sure it's safe to pull over and then pull off the road completely," he said. "Shut off your car. Take your foot off the brake. Make sure your lights are off so other cars don't mistakenly think you're on the road and drive into you."

Most dust storms pass quickly so you should not be too delayed.

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