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Driver recounts harrowing moment of impact on I-15

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LAYTON — Life has a way of throwing obstacles at us often when we least expect it. And, in rare cases, sometimes literal objects.

“I drive it all the time and you kind of go into autopilot,” Nicci Sanders said about her drive on Monday.

Sanders was on her usual route, driving down the far left lane on I-15 in Clearfield, when she says, “I saw it in the sky.”

A five-foot-long metal beam flying toward her car.

“The beam was coming at me longways and I told myself ‘I’m going to die,’” she said.

Sanders said she had both hands on the steering wheel and “was completely aware of my surroundings.”

As the piece of metal shot toward her, Sanders swerved left as far as she could without falling into the median that divides north and southbound traffic on I-15. Then it happened.

“It was just an explosion of glass,” Sanders remembers. “I can’t believe that I’m alive, to tell you the truth.”

Her quick response proved to be critical when the beam smashed through her windshield closer to the passenger’s side and then abruptly stopped just inches from her body.

“If I had been doing anything different … I’d be dead,” Sanders said.

Utah Highway Patrol Corporal Chris Jones agreed. “Her actions are probably what helped save her,” he said.

Jones had responded to the scene Monday morning. He says the metal piece fell off of a boom truck, but the driver kept going, apparently unaware of the damage left behind.

“It was some kind of a safety brace that was in place to keep the boom from moving,” Jones said. “And it came loose and came off the truck. The driver wasn’t even aware it had come loose.”

Jones says debris-related crashes are not uncommon but added, “we don’t get a lot of calls for items this heavy or this large that can cause this much damage.”

A UHP spokesman says they received 682 reports of debris-related crashes in 2016. In 2017, there were 657 reported crashes. And last year, 698 reports.

Thanks to witnesses, UHP received the necessary information to track down the truck and its company. “The driver was issued a citation because it’s something he should have caught during his pre-trip,” Jones said.

“I just think we get so lazy with things and on autopilot and in a hurry and we just don’t pay attention,” Sanders said.

In her case, paying attention during one of life’s critical moments may have been the difference between life and death.​ “I would have died," Sanders said. "I mean, it was a miracle.”

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