The Utah Highway Patrol said that at least seven people were killed and several others were injured in a 20-vehicle accident on I-15. A severe thunderstorm rolled through the area, bringing heavy rains and high winds on Sunday (July 25) afternoon.
"It appears that 20 vehicles were involved in Sunday's crashes after high winds caused a sand or dust storm and impaired visibility on the roadway," the Utah Highway Patrol said in a press release. "The Utah Highway Patrol summoned troopers from Richfield and Beaver to assist. Multiple ground and air ambulances also responded to transport victims."
Because of a severe drought, the rain didn't soak into the ground, and the winds, which gusted above 50 mph, kicked up sand and dust, blowing it over the roadway and reducing visibility.
"No one could see, so people started stopping, and then you just get a chain reaction," Battenfield said. "Nobody could see, and then all of a sudden, you're slamming into a car," he said. "It's just a horrific situation."
Authorities closed the highway in both directions as first responders worked to clear the road. Photos taken by the Utah Highway Patrol showed mangled cars and debris littering the roadway in between several tractor-trailers.
Multiple people were rushed to the hospital and are in critical condition.
"We don't even know how many for sure were hospitalized. This is how big of a crash it was," Trooper Andrew Battenfield, a spokesman for the Highway Patrol, said. "A lot of them are in critical condition."
Video from a car not involved in the pile-up showed how much the dust storm reduced visibility on the highway.