IRON COUNTY – A 67-year-old Colorado man was killed Tuesday morning and his 43-year-old female passenger was transported by Life Flight to Dixie Regional Medical Center in St. George in critical condition after a rollover on Interstate 15 just north of Paragonah.
The 2005 GMC Envoy the man was driving rolled multiple times near milepost 88 while traveling north on I-15 after swerving to the right side of the road, overcorrecting the vehicle to the left, and then overcorrecting to the right again, Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Steven Esplin said.
Both the man and the woman were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash around 7:37 a.m., Esplin said, but the woman, who was traveling in a reclined position, somehow got her leg pinned out the window under the passenger side of the SUV when it landed, causing a severe break.
The SUV, which landed on its right side, had to be opened through the roof with the aid of the Jaws of Life in order to extract the occupants of the vehicle.
Despite her traumatic injuries, the woman was conscious and coherent with the first responders on the scene, Esplin said. Injuries like the type of leg break the woman suffered can lead to all kinds of complications, he said, which is why it is considered to be critical.
Based on the collision pattern, Esplin said, the crash was likely caused by drowsy or distracted driving.
“It’s very indicative of falling asleep,” he said. “The pattern is usually … (they) fall asleep and drift off to the right, and then they hit the rumble strips, and then they correct left, then they start to realize they are going off the road left, then they overcorrect too hard back to the right.”
The majority of single-vehicle rollovers happen in this manner, he said.
The best thing to do when a driver realizes they are traveling off of the road is to take their foot off the gas, drive as straight as possible and then correct back onto the roadway slowly, Esplin said, explaining that even driving straight off the road and into the weeds is safer than jerking the steering wheel in an attempt to correct the course.
The deceased driver was picked up by Swindlehurst Funeral Home who was the acting coroner on the scene, Esplin said.
The names of both occupants are being withheld pending notification of family in Colorado.
The call enlisted first responders from all over Iron County including UHP, Utah Department of Transportation, Gold Cross Ambulance, Iron County Sheriff’s Office and Paragonah Fire Department.
This report is based on preliminary information provided by law enforcement or other emergency responders and may not contain the full scope of findings.