Bowie, AZ Pileup Takes 10 Lives, Oct 1995
DUST BLEW AWAY TEN LIVES.
PILEUP WAS WORST IN ARIZ. HISTORY.
The Associated Press.
Paramedic Carl Shlaudemen couldn't see or breathe as he fought through a wall of dust to get to a 23-car pileup along Arizona's Interstate 10, a little more than 20 miles west of the New Mexico line.
"It was completely brown," Shlaudeman recalled.
High winds are a common phenomenon this time of year - but they were a smothering force Sunday, when daylong winds, whipping up as high as 50 mph, spurred collisions that killed 10 people near Bowie, authorities said Tuesday.
BRENT DIRICKSON, 6, and APRIL DIRICKSON, 13, both of Deming, died late Monday at Tucson Medical Center, bringing the death toll to 10 and making the string of wrecks the worst such accident in Arizona history. Two previous accidents each killed eight, one in 1970 near Casa Grande and one in 1964 near Red Rock. Twenty-two people were injured.
Survivor OSCAR CARRASCO, 45, a teacher in Chihuahua, Mexico, lost his parents, wife and 12-year-old son.
CARRASCO said from his hospital bed at the Tucson Medical Center that his family was going to Chihuahua by was of El Paso, after visiting his brother in Phoenix.
"With all that dust, I could barely see in front of me," he said in an interview with the Journal. "And the next thing I knew I was in this accident. I was going below the speed limit."
CARRASCO said he suffered chest injuries and a broken arm.
"At one point, I could barely move my body," he said.
CARRASCO is in fair condition and said he should be released from the hospital by Thursday.
"I have a daughter and two sons to go home to," he said. "I can only go forward now, with God's help."
Dead are his parents, JOSE MANUEL CARRASCO, 78, of Chihuahua, Mexico, and AMELIA ENRIQUEZ CARRASCO, 75; his wife, ALMA CANO CARRASCO, of Chihuahua; and son, DAVID CARRASCO, JR., 12.
Other relatives who died in the crash were DAVID CARRASCO, 63, and his wife, SOCORRO CARRASCO, 59, of Anthony, N. M.
The DIRICKSON children's parents - BOBBY, 48, and DEBBIE, 32 - and a 17-year-old sister, CHRIS, and 8-year-old brother, MICHAEL, were in fair condition Tuesday at Tucson Medical Center, said hospital spokesman Tom Reavis.
Two other people were killed in the wreck - ELIZABETH DAVIS, 48, and MICKEY DAVIS, 53, of Las Cruces.
Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are trying to reconstruct the citizens band radio conversations among big-rig drivers in and around the four separate wrecks, said Arizona Department of Public Safety Lt. Steve Roethle.
"I think the zero visibility just kind of jumped on them, I really don't know if they could have had much advance warning," Roethle said.
Cars piled up in accidents on both sides of I-10 after the first accident occurred about 2:30 p.m., said Officer Bob Stein, a DPS spokesman. The interstate was closed until early Monday.
Two pileups occurred on each side of the interstate, but the fatal collisions were in the eastbound lanes, Stein said.
Investigators believe a car carrying the DIRICKSON family hit the back of a truck and was struck in turn by a recreational vehicle that was towing a pickup truck, Stein said.
The pickup was hit by a tractor-trailer rig, which in turn was hit by another rig.
Authorities aren't sure if a Dodge Shadow carrying a New Mexico couple then ran into the crashed semis or if the car was driven into the trailers by a Chevrolet Blazer from behind.
Motorists can be blinded by walls of dirt suddenly swept up from nearby farmland during gusty spring weather. When the winds blow, the mixture can be disastrous, said Craig Ellis of the National Weather Service.
It's a point of frustration for some Bowie residents who say they're tired of seeing accidents near their homes.
"I think the highway patrol should have closed that stretch of interstate the minute they heard how bad it was," said resident Kim Klump. "When it's windy like that, you can't see anything. We all know how to handle it, but the tourists don't understand."
Large, yellow signs sit in pairs at five places between Wilcox and the New Mexico border, warning of blowing dust, said Robert Johnson, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Transportation.
"A dust storm strikes with a blinding fury," said Stein. "When the winds blow all over the state like they did Sunday, how do you know exactly where the dust storm will strike?"
Albuquerque Journal New Mexico 1995-10-12