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December 7, 2009

Inclement weather causes 33-vehicle crash in Utah

By Geoff Liesik
Deseret Morning News

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — An instantaneous weather event Saturday caused a chain-reaction crash on a three-mile stretch of I-80 in Tooele County involving three semitrailer trucks and 30 other vehicles, the Utah Highway Patrol said.

"A storm cell blew over and instead of snow, it just went right to ice," said spokesman Jesse Valenzuela. "People weren't even prepared. They hit ice immediately."

People in 16 of the vehicles involved in the crash on I-80 eastbound near Saltair required medical attention. Ambulances had to be called in from Salt Lake City because of the number of people injured, Valenzuela said.

Shortly after the pileup, the Tooele County Sheriff's Office sent out an advisory warning people to refrain from driving toward Salt Lake City until the storm moved out.

The I-80 incident was the biggest during a nasty day on Utah's roads, a day that involved multiple crashes, injuries and traffic jams.

In Box Elder and Cache counties, Valenzuela said, troopers responded to 15 crashes between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. During the same period, Davis County saw 64 crashes, nearly all of them weather-related.

Salt Lake and Utah counties had the largest share of the day's activity, Valenzuela said, with troopers responding to 98 crashes with vehicle damage and 31 injury crashes.

"That is only on I-15, I-215, S.R. 21 and I-80," he said. "It was crazy."

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