AMERICAN FORK — An Orem man died after the vehicle he was driving crashed into a flatbed truck during a seven-car crash on I-15 northbound Tuesday morning, authorities said.
A statement from the Utah Highway Patrol identifies the man who died as Dylan Thornton, 35, of Orem.
Thornton was a teacher at Vista Heights Middle School in Saratoga Springs, Alpine School District spokeswoman Kimberly Bird said. She said Thornton began working at the school in 2011, a year after the school first opened. He started as an hourly aide before becoming an hourly teacher and then a contracted social studies teacher.
"(Thornton) was beloved by his students, parents and the entire school community. He had a tremendous personality and cared deeply about his students," a statement from the school district says. "We are heartbroken for the loss of one of our teachers and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and school community at this time."
Bird said the mood at the school was somber Tuesday. She added counselors were being made available for students of the school and Westlake High School, who may have had him as a teacher.
"We are deeply saddened by the news and our hearts and prayers are with (Thornton's) family and the school community," the school posted on Facebook.
Troopers responded to a report of a crash on the freeway just north of the 500 East exit shortly after 7:50 a.m., according to UHP Sgt. Todd Royce.
One trooper was in the area conducting a traffic stop and witnessed the crash as traffic began to slow in the area. Royce said it began as two separate two-car crashes, which led to more crashes.
The last sequence of events ended with Thorton's Mitsubushi crashing into the flatbed truck.
"It appears, and it's being looked at, is that this vehicle took evasive maneuvers but slid underneath a flatbed truck," Royce said.
Thornton was pronounced dead at the scene. A few people suffered minor injuries, Royce added.
Investigators believe distraction from the troopers' traffic stop and tailgating may have played a factor in the crash. Royce said authorities encourage drivers to pay attention to traffic at all times.
"As law enforcement or medical personnel or UDOT workers are working on the side of the road, please pay attention to what's happening in front of you," he cautioned. "Don't look to the side, look in front of you and anticipate any problems going on."
The crash closed four right lanes of northbound I-15 just north of the 500 for several hours while crews cleaned up the scene. Those lanes reopened shortly before noon.
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