Two separate accidents occurring within moments of each other shut down westbound I-40 about one mile west of Winslow for a little more than three hours on Aug. 31. One person died, one was airlifted to Flagstaff and another was in police custody as of last Friday.
In the first accident, a semi rear-ended a car. In the second, a car rear-ended a semi.
Department of Public Safety Officer Tom Neve investigated the first accident, which occurred around 11:20 a.m. in the eastbound lanes near milepost 248.
Neve said Jose Ignacio Arreola-Cardoza, 42, was driving a semi-truck traveling eastbound in the right lane when he reportedly collided with a 1979 Chrysler sedan driven by Sarah Jean Tsosie, 73, from Leupp.
"He forced her vehicle to go into the median. It lost control, overturned into the westbound lanes," Neve said.
The accident caused cars travelling west to slow down. Moments later, a 2002 Dodge Durango, driven by Lorraine Alcott-Kerley, slammed into the rear of another semi-truck that was slowing down for the first accident. The accidents occurred approximately 1,000 feet away from each other.
Neve said that based on preliminary investigations, the Durango was in the left lane and switched lanes at approximately 70 mph and rear-ended the semi-truck that was nearly stopped.
Neve said Arreola-Cardoza stopped but then left the scene of the accident.
"Apparently he left the scene, later located him and the vehicle at Flying J and he subsequently was arrested," he said.
Arreola-Cardoza was taken to Navajo County jail awaiting extradition to Coconino County where he is expected to be prosecuted. The accident occurred in Coconino County. He is charged with leaving the scene of an injury accident, which is a felony. The Coconino County prosecutor could add additional charges including responsibility for the death in the second accident. But as of last week, Neve said DPS does not consider the first accident the direct cause of the second.
"The first accident did not directly cause the second accident. It was because of traffic that was stopping or starting to back up that caused the second accident," Neve said. "Basically (the first accident) stabilized and while vehicles were slowing or stopping for the vehicle that was now blockingŠ this Durango came into the scene and rear-ended the semi."
Alcott-Kerley, 47 from Cameron, Ariz., died at the scene.
According to DPS reports, both accidents occurred at 11:20 a.m. Tsosie was airlifted to Flagstaff Medical Center, but Neve could not comment on the nature of her injuries.
Neve said Arreola-Cardoza's place of residence was still under investigation as of Thursday. The driver of the second semi was not injured and was not charged.
Weather did not play a part in either accident, Neve said.
Arizona Department of Transportation crews were requested for traffic control and shortly after arriving on scene asked the Winslow Police Department to shut down freeway ramps. The westbound lanes were fully opened around 3 p.m. However, freeway construction near Meteor Crater caused further delays.