PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Four people are dead and nine more are in the hospital after a fiery crash that shut down the Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway overnight.
The crash happened in the eastbound lanes at 52nd Street shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday. According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, a semi hauling a tanker of milk came up on some traffic congestion but failed to slow down and plowed into several vehicles. The tanker broke away from the semi and went over the concrete barrier.
"A total of eight vehicles, including that commercial vehicle, are involved in this collision. That tanker became separated from the truck tractor, crossed over the concrete barrier median wall into the westbound traffic lanes. That tanker came to rest on its side, and the rest of the vehicles are all here on the eastbound side," DPS spokesperson Raul Garcia said.
Garcia later mentioned that the tanker burst into flames. Video from an Arizona Department of Transportation camera showed the fire. The Phoenix Fire Department said the burning tanker was leaking both milk and diesel fuel. One of the other vehicles had caught fire, as well.
Four people were pronounced dead at the scene. Fire officials say paramedics took nine people to nearby hospitals. Six of those patients suffered critical injuries. They range in age from 22 to 45. The other three victims, including a 6-year-old girl, had non-life-threatening injuries. A 10th person was checked out at the scene, but did not want to go to the hospital. Multiple ambulances and fire trucks from Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, and Mesa responded to the scene.
Garcia said investigators have ruled out impairment as a factor in the crash. They are working to piece together the moments leading up to the wreck. On Thursday afternoon, the NTSB said they would be sending nine investigators to the scene.
"Traffic was congested. This vehicle [the semi-truck] was traveling at a high rate of speed – not necessarily over the posted speed limit. That’s not what we’re saying," Garcia explained.
Jadan Dorsey said he got a call Wednesday night that his father had been hurt in the crash. "He's doing better," said Dorsey. "He just got out of surgery. As far as I know he just got a rod put in his leg and a broken nose." He has not a chance to see his dad since he was hurt. "He doesn't have much to give, but he gives either way, so he's always there no matter what," said Dorsey.
Today, it's Dorsey hoping to be there for his dad. "Pray for my dad, please, and pray for everyone who got hurt in the crash," said Dorsey. "...it could have turned out different for him. We're all just happy he's still here."
The NTSB is expected to visit the scene for about 5 to 10 days to conduct field work. They, however, did not specify on what factors are believed to be involved in the crash other than what was initially reported.
Federal officials tell Arizona's Family that a preliminary report will be completed in 30 to 90 days, with a full report available in 12 to 24 months.