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November 7, 2013

Milton Truck Driver Among Three Killed In Crashes Blamed on Arizona Dust Storm

A Milton, Iowa truck driver was one of three motorists killed in a pair of deadly chain reaction crashes on an Arizona interstate that are being blamed on a severe dust storm.

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, three people were killed, including David D. Bechtel, 51, of Milton, Iowa, and a dozen motorists were injured during a dust storm that blew across Interstate 10 north of Picacho Peak, AZ on October 29th.

DPS officials reported that shortly after noon, high winds started blowing thick brown dust into the air in a western direction across Interstate 10 just north of Picacho Peak. The interstate runs north and south in that area.

The dust storm caused little to zero visibility for drivers, resulting in a series of deadly collisions that involved a total of 21 vehicles.

Due to the collisions and the dust storm, Interstate 10 was closed in both directions at milepost 214. The initial 19 vehicle crash, which resulted in three fatalities, occurred within the westbound traffic lanes of the interstate.

A second two-vehicle crash occurred within the eastbound traffic lanes of Interstate 10 that involved minor injuries and a commercial vehicle.

A total of 12 motorists were injured as a result of the collisions and suffered injuries ranging from minor to life-threatening. All of the injured were removed or extricated from the wreckage and transported by helicopter or ground ambulance to various hospitals, including St. Joseph's Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, and University Medical Center.

Members of the United States Air Force 48th Rescue Squadron were among those providing initial care to the injured motorists. The squadron happened to be traveling through the area at the time of the dust storm and, following the collisions, they were able to triage and provided critical medical care to the majority of the patients on scene. Members of the squadron also coordinated the on-scene approach and departure of the three responding medical helicopters.

Also killed in the collisions were Gordon Lee Smith, 76, of Mead, WA and Lenny Lubers, 46, of Phoenix, AZ.

Eleven of the vehicles involved in the collisions were large commercial vehicles. Due to the magnitude of the wreckage, Interstate 10 was closed in the area from about 12:00 p.m. to about 11:00 p.m.

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