A man driving southbound in the northbound lanes of the I-17 crashed into sisters who were driving northbound on April 14, 2017. All three were killed in the wreck, said Raul Garcia, DPS spokesman. Their ages were corrected April 15, 2017.
Two Grand Canyon University students were among the three people killed Friday following a wrong-way crash, according to GCU representatives. The 22-year-old wrong-way driver that caused the fatal collision was a GCU student, as was one of two sisters in the car he collided with.
It was not immediately clear whether the other sister also attended an Arizona school.
The two-vehicle crash occurred just after 2 a.m. near Greenway Road, according to Phoenix Fire Capt. Reda Bigler. The male driver of one vehicle and the female driver and her sister in the second vehicle all were pronounced dead at the scene, Bigler said. Interstate 17 northbound was closed for several hours while police investigated.
The crash occurred about eight miles north of GCU’s main campus in Phoenix.
Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Raul Garcia said the wrong-way vehicle was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes. Officials have not released the names of those who died.
“They are young,” Garcia said. “They are between the ages of 19 and 22.”
Bob Romantic, a spokesman for GCU, released the following statement to students and staff via email Friday morning:
“It is with great sorrow and heavy hearts that we share the news that three people, including two students from Grand Canyon University, were killed in a wrong-way driver accident last night on Interstate 17. Names have not been released pending notification of families. As a close-knit community of students, faculty and staff, please keep these families in your thoughts and prayers during this tragic time. Pastor Tim Griffin’s office and the entire Student Affairs staff will be available in Building 26 to assist any students who need support or counseling.”
Grand Canyon State University security did not allow media on campus. Several students who said they knew one of those killed declined to comment.
Garcia said the DPS received two phone calls of the wrong-way incident. The first call reported the 22-year-old male driver was traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of I-17 “right around Happy Valley Road and Pinnacle Peak Road,” Garcia said. He also said that it was unclear if that is where the 22-year-old entered the highway going the wrong way.
Garcia said another caller reported the deadly crash to 911 approximately five miles farther south, approaching Greenway Road.
Two sisters, ages 19 and 20, driving a white Pontiac with a North Carolina license plate, were struck by the 22-year-old wrong-way driver in a silver Chrysler Sebring with a Colorado plate “going highway speeds,” Garcia said.
DPS had initially said the white car had the Colorado plate, but corrected the information Friday afternoon.
Garcia said DPS investigators worked with state troopers from Colorado and North Carolina to notify family. Romantic said the families had been notified.
“This is difficult for everyone,” Garcia said, “They’re young.”
The crash is still under investigation, but, Garcia said, the “majority if not all the wrong-way accidents that we investigate that involve injury or death are a direct result of impaired driving.”
Quoting a previous statement from DPS Director Col. Frank Milstead regarding young drivers, Garcia said, “This is a society problem. … We need you to keep from driving a vehicle if you are impaired.” He urges people, especially young adults, to take the keys away from people who insist on driving impaired, and if that’s not possible then call the authorities to do it.
“See something, say something,” he said. “Don’t assume that someone else is going to handle it or take the time to call 911.”
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