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I-15 flow normal after accidents trapped hundreds of motorists

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Updated: 12/09/2013 7:02 am
MESQUITE (KSNV -- Travel conditions on Interstate 15 in northwest Arizona are back to normal after several several hundred motorists were trapped for up to 13 hours by accidents late Saturday night in the Virgin River Gorge.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety said about 300 motorists were involved or trapped by multiple accidents. There were no fatalities.

Bart Graves of the Arizona Department of Public Safety said the accident involved several jackknifed semis and other vehicles.

"We got the call at midnight about bad travel conditions in the gorge," Graves said. "The vehicles were trapped by some accidents that included semis and that blocked traffic. At about 3 a.m. Sunday one of our officers counted and said there were about 300 vehicles stopped."

Interstate 15 was closed in both directions from midnight, but travel resumed about noon (11 a.m. Las Vegas time) in both directions.

Traffic was flowing normally through the narrow 15-mile-long canyon shortly after noon when SKY 3 flew over the gorge to get video.

One Arizona officer who said he could not comment on camera said the chain-reaction accident was really a series of smaller accidents. He said such a situation has not happened in the canyon for at least 30 to 40 years.

Conditions may have been bad before the ADPS received the midnight call because at least one Mesquite resident was trapped starting at about 8:30 p.m.

Mesquite firefighter Eric Paul was trapped for nearly 13 hours from about 8:30 p.m. Saturday to 9:30 a.m. Sunday.

"I did not see any wreckage or accidents, but there was a lot of ice and snow," Paul told News 3 from Mesquite Fire Department headquarters during a phone call early Sunday afternoon. "I heard the plows from St. George did not have chains so they were working on that."

Paul said he was trapped about two miles north of the Cedar Brakes exit.

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