PHOENIX -- The devastation of the crash site 60 miles west of Phoenix is obvious, but it's telling that at first officers didn't even know how many cars were involved. There's not much left of the van carrying seven members of a western Arizona family.
"This has to be one of the saddest I've seen," said Officer Carrick Cook with the Department of Public Safety.
Around 11 a.m. Sunday, Jose Mireles, 57, with Nieves Transportation in Phoenix was behind the wheel of a semi-truck. He was heading west and his wife, Antonia, was riding in the cab. Suddenly, something happened and the semi crossed the wide median into the eastbound lanes and into the family's van. Both vehicles ended up in a ditch where they burst into flames.
"I think it'd be safe to say that the truck was going about 65 or 70 when it hit that van and it was just an immediate stop once they got in that crash," Cook said. "There was no braking involved."
None of the seven made it. Their van was registered to Parker, Ariz., and people in town said they were members of the Colorado River Indian Tribes. They lived on the nearby reservation and in that car headed toward Phoenix were a grandmother, her daughter and five children.
Mireles and his wife were airlifted to Banner Good Samaritan Hospital. DPS said she broke her back and he is undergoing surgery. Officers are looking into whether cardiac issues played a role in the crash.
"We have a suspicion that it's a medical condition. We haven't confirmed it and we don't know if we'll see a citation or if there's any criminal charges pending," Cook said.
DPS said its focus now is formally identifying the family through dental records. Their autopsies are scheduled for Wednesday.