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Scott G Winterton/Deseret News

Roads reopen after high winds cause 1 death, over 25 injuries

By Tracie Snowder and Ben Dowsett  |  Posted Apr 14th, 2015 @ 10:27pm

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TOOELE — High winds knocked over several semitrucks in Tooele on I-80, causing at least one fatality and at least 25 injuries, according to the Utah Highway Patrol.

Westbound I-80 reopened around 7:00 p.m., according to UDOT traffic. Eastbound lanes from mile post 0 to 99 were closed, but reopened about 4:45 p.m., according to police.

The crash causing the reported fatality took place as a cascading effect, according to police. A semitruck ahead of several passenger vehicles attempted to slow down after seeing inclement conditions. Due to low visibility, several of the vehicles behind the semitruck then collided with it.

At this point, a second semitruck also collided behind these passenger vehicles, police say. In total, at least six semitrucks and at least 11 passenger vehicles were involved in this larger crash. Police say several other minor crashes have taken place, but no major injuries have been reported.

Jessica Ngo, who was driving one of the cars involved in the crash, said she and her passengers "couldn't even see" what was in front of them. Crashed vehicles, with which they then collided, were the first objects they were able to make out.

"It just happened so fast that we couldn't even stop the car," Ngo said.

The fatality victim is male and was in a passenger vehicle at the time of the crash, but has not been further identified.

According to officials, available ambulances to assist with the incident ran low, and more immediate patients needed to be prioritized. Conditions made helicopter transportation virtually impossible. Mountain West Medical Center, one of the hospitals receiving patients from the incident, has initiated emergency protocols due to the volume of patients and the resources available to treat them.

"In any disaster, at some point you're going to stretch the limits of your availability to respond," said Phil Eaten, CEO of Mountain West Medical Center.

The National Weather Service issued a high wind warning for western and central Utah on Tuesday morning. Gusts on I-15 at the Point of the Mountain and across the state are over 60 mph and drivers are urged to use caution, UDOT tweeted. An 82 mph windgust was reported just east of Dugway.

The Intermountain Allergy Center told KSL that there will be extra pollen blown into the air. They advise residents to keep their windows and doors shut to keep pollen and debris from getting inside homes.

More information will be posted as it becomes available.

Contributing: Kaitlin Loukides, Nicole Vowell

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