WILLCOX — Authorities responded to a report of a collision involving a semi-tractor trailer that drove through the City of Willcox Visitor Center on Monday night.
Upon arrival of the Willcox Police Department, the Willcox Fire Department, Health Care Innovations (HCI), and AZ Department of Public Safety (AZDPS), HCI tended to the driver and pronounced him deceased at the scene. Willcox Police Chief Dale Hadfield said it was likely the driver was deceased or at least unconscious before he hit the building.
Fire personnel immediately began working to free the trapped driver using the “Jaws of Life,” and also sprayed the leaking diesel fuel with an encapsulating foam and shut off the gas leaking into the building.
A preliminary investigation revealed that the vehicle was traveling westbound on Interstate 10 near mile post 341 when, for an unknown reason, left the roadway to the right, drove through a fence and crossed the desert towards the City of Willcox Visitor Center. It was reported by witnesses that the vehicle did not apply any brakes.
After traveling between a quarter to a half-mile, the vehicle struck a retaining wall on the north side of the Visitor Center property and continued to travel southbound. The vehicle struck the north side of the building and maintained enough velocity that it traveled through the entire building and exited through the south side of the building, causing massive structural and cosmetic damage to the building.
The vehicle then dropped off a loading drop causing it to turn to the right and eventually jackknifed to a stop in the AZDPS parking lot. The vehicle narrowly avoided striking AZDPS officers inside the building and their patrol unit.
Chief Hadfield, Director of the Willcox Department of Public Safety, stated “I would like to thank all personnel involved in this incident. Although tragic, this incident again shows how well first responders in rural Arizona come together to accomplish tasks. Thank you to all personnel who had a hand in this. Your dedication to preserving life brings great credit upon yourselves, your agencies and the State of Arizona.”
The identity of the driver is being withheld pending notification of the next of kin. This is an ongoing investigation.