Phoenix Fire Dept. dispatcher killed by wrong-way driver

Posted: Updated:
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman
Megan Lange, her husband Patrick, and her sons, 2-year-old Sean, and 6-month-old Miles. By Mike Gertzman Megan Lange, her husband Patrick, and her sons, 2-year-old Sean, and 6-month-old Miles. By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Investigators are trying to determine if a wrong-way driver, who caused a multiple vehicle crash that killed a Phoenix Fire Department dispatcher, was impaired.

It happened just after 1 a.m. Tuesday morning on Interstate 17 at Camelback Road.

Officers with the Arizona Department of Public Safety said a man was driving a Chevrolet Suburban southbound in the northbound lanes of Interstate 17.

A DPS officer who was in the area noticed headlights coming straight at him from the Glendale Avenue off-ramp.

The officer tried to get the wrong-way driver to the side of the interstate but the driver continued, moving over to the HOV lane after swerving around the officer.

The driver of the Suburban crashed into two other vehicles a short time later. He side-swiped a passenger car and then collided with a small sport utility vehicle and came to final rest blocking the roadway.

Three people were taken to the hospital.

Megan Lange, 26, a dispatcher for the Phoenix Fire Department, was killed, according to Deputy Chief Shelly Jamison with the Phoenix Fire Department.

Lange was on her way home after work. She has been a dispatcher with the Phoenix Fire Department since September 2009. She was married with two sons, ages 2 and 6 months.

Lange was driving a small sport utility vehicle.

The driver of the passenger car that was side-swiped sustained minor injuries and was treated by the Phoenix Fire Department on scene.

The wrong-way driver, a 39-year-old man and his passenger, a 38-year-old woman, sustained minor injuries and were also transported to St. Joseph’s Hospital.

The drivers of the vehicles hit by the Suburban had a chance to avoid head-on collisions. Officers think that may have saved lives.

"The best thing we can tell drivers out here is just don't be distracted when you're driving that way you can see vehicles coming," said Officer Tim Case the Arizona Department of Public Safety. "Try to avoid them. We've given some tips to stay out of the HOV lane after certain periods of the night, after midnight, because typically that's where the wrong-way driver is going to be driving thinking that they're going the correct direction."

Four people were involved in the crash. The wrong-way driver was traveling with a passenger.

Northbound Interstate 17 was closed at Camelback Road until 8 a.m.

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DPS offers the following information to assist in preventing wrong-way collisions:

  • Most wrong-ways occur between the hours of 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. on weekends.
  • Wrong-way vehicles typically use the HOV or the far-left lane because they assume those lanes are for opposing traffic, as if they were traveling on a city street or rural highway.
  • Traveling in the middle lane can increase your chances of avoiding a wrong-way vehicle.
  • Since the majority of wrong-way incidents involve driver impairment always designate a sober driver.
  • The most important thing to remember is to avoid distractions and stay alert while driving, thus increasing your ability to see and avoid any oncoming wrong-way vehicle.

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