LOCAL NEWS

8 Killed, Several Injured In Crashes After Sandstorm Hits I-15

Jul 25, 2021, 7:11 PM | Updated: Jul 26, 2021, 10:32 pm

MILLARD COUNTY, Utah — A sandstorm led to multiple crashes involving 22 vehicles on Interstate 15 in central Utah on Sunday, according to authorities.

The Utah Highway Patrol said eight people died, including some children, and at least 10 more were hospitalized following Sunday’s incident.

“Everything happened really fast,” said Shannon Mortenson, who lost several loved ones in the crash. “A big sandstorm kind of just swept across I-15.”

The victims were identified Monday afternoon as:

  • Occupants of Buick:
    • Kortni Sawyer, age 30, from St. George, Utah (passenger)
    • Riggins Sawyer, age 6, from St. George, Utah (passenger)
    • Franki Sawyer, age 2, from St. George Utah (passenger)
    • Ryder Sawyer, age 12, from Lehi, Utah (passenger)
    • Race Sawyer, age 37, from Lehi, Utah (driver)
      • Race is the father of Ryder Sawyer, and brother-in-law to Kortni Sawyer
  • Occupants of Hyundai:
    • Richard Lorenzon, age 51, from Salt Lake City, Utah (driver)
    • Maricela Lorenzon, age 47, from Salt Lake City, Utah (passenger)
  • Occupant of Cadillac:
    • Cameron Valentine, age 15, from Yuma, Arizona (passenger)
(Utah Highway Patrol) (Utah Highway Patrol) (Utah Highway Patrol) (Utah Highway Patrol) (Utah Highway Patrol)

“My initial reaction was just shock, that it can just happen so fast and it’s so final,” said Mortenson.

I-15 was closed in both directions for several hours after the crash, which occurred around 4:30 p.m. Sunday near milepost 152, between the Kanosh and Fillmore exits.

Northbound lanes partially reopened Monday morning.

Southbound traffic was being diverted at the Meadow exit (No. 158). Motorists travel through Meadow and then south on state Route 133 into Kanosh. Traffic then can re-enter southbound I-15 at the Kanosh onramp (No. 148).

(UHP)

Troopers said southbound lanes will be closed in the area for several hours while UHP conducts its investigation.

“We are still looking into the root cause of what ultimately happened, but (the) initial report was that visibility was really low and we had multiple cars start crashing,” said UHP Sgt. Cameron Roden. “In fact, we had more crashes maybe involved in this that we don’t have accounted for. If people are involved, we are asking them to contact the highway patrol office in Nephi and let us know that they were involved.”

Troopers in the areas of Richfield and Beaver were called in to assist, along with ground and air ambulances, officials said.

Authorities said a few cars were involved in minor collisions, but then a semi rear-ended a pick-up truck and blocked the freeway going southbound.

Several other vehicles ran into the back of that semi and that’s where all the fatalities occurred.

Authorities said 15-year-old Cameron Valentine was in one vehicle. He was originally taken to the hospital in critical condition, but passed away Monday morning.

Richard and Maricela Lorenzon were a married couple in another car. Both of them were pronounced dead at the scene.

Then there were five members of the same extended family in an SUV who were killed.

On Monday, KSL-TV spoke with Shannon Mortenson who lost her brother, sister-in-law, two nephews and a niece in the crash.

“My brother, Race, is the most entertaining person to be around always silly, always teasing you, always keeping things fun. And Kortni is just the best mom that I know, just great with her kids and always a joy to be around. She’s never upset or in a bad mood, just always lifts everybody up around her,” said Mortenson.

“Franki was 2. She was cherished in our family. We had Riggins, who was 6, and Ryder, who was 12,” Mortenson went on to say. “Ryder is a performer; he did plays all the time. He was great on stage and a very captivating person. Riggins started out filling his dad’s shoes, playing all sorts of sports that he could and really excelling with it.”

“I just can’t get it off my mind. I loved every single one of them,” said Sawyer Mortenson. “I’m just sad about what happened.”

“I’m just grateful for the time that we did have to spend with them,” said Shannon.

There were two separate families in that SUV.

Both live in St. George and were heading home from a family reunion at Bear Lake.

One child in the SUV survived the crash 3-year-old Blue Sawyer. He’s currently at Primary Children’s Hospital, thankfully, recovering.

*GoFundMe pages have been set up to help the surviving members of the Sawyer, Lorenzon and Valentine families.

*KSL-TV does not assure that the money deposited to the account(s) will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisors and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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8 Killed, Several Injured In Crashes After Sandstorm Hits I-15