2 People killed in wrong-way driver crash

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

GILBERT, Ariz. -- Two people were killed and two people were seriously injured in a crash caused by a wrong-way driver on the Loop 202 Sunday morning, according to Raul Garcia, a public information officer with the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

A DPS spokesman said the wrong-way driver was 68-year-old Patricia Murphy from Chandler. Her passenger was her 9-year-old grandson. Murphy remains in the hospital in serious condition. She is expected to survive. Her grandson suffered serious injuries as well and is also expected to survive.

The victims were Michael Ruquet, 25 from Mesa. His passenger was Ashley Adea, 20 from Mesa.

Detectives will look into whether Murphy was impaired at the time of the crash.

The collision occurred in the eastbound lanes of the Santan Freeway between Higley and Williams Field roads.

In an email to 3TV, Garcia stated that DPS received the first 911 call reporting a wrong-way vehicle at 1:35 a.m. The caller reported that the vehicle entered the Santan Freeway at University Drive and was traveling westbound in the eastbound traffic lanes.

Although DPS had at least eight highway patrol units and the assistance of the Mesa and Gilbert police officers, the wrong-way vehicle traveled about 12 miles and collided with a Toyota passenger car head-on at 1:48 a.m.

The two deceased people were in the passenger car that was traveling in the correct direction, according to Garcia.

The two injured people were traveling in a pickup truck, in the wrong direction. They were both transported to a hospital. The wrong-way driver and passenger sustained serious injuries.

"Split seconds count in incidents where you have a wrong-way vehicle," Garcia told 3TV's Tess Rafols. "All hands are on deck for something like this and that means aircraft, that means contacting other agencies, contacting the Department of Transportation for VMS board lighting, obviously the DPS officers that are in the area. With the exception of being at another critical incident, everyone is going to respond."

The Loop 202 Santan Freeway was closed in both directions between Higley and Williams Field roads but reopened later in the morning, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.

This is third fatal crash caused by a wrong-way driver in Arizona in seven days.

"It's difficult. It's very difficult. It lies very heavy on the conscience and the hearts of all DPS employees and all law enforcement agents," Garcia said.

Three people were killed on Friday in a crash on Interstate 17 north of the Valley and an off-duty Mesa police officer was killed on Monday.

"We want the public to know that wrong-way driving is a daily occurrence, at least it is for DPS around the state of Arizona," Garcia said. "What isn't daily is a serious injury or fatal crashes stemming from wrong-way driving."

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