Barely an hour before the crash Tuesday afternoon, Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, participated in a contentious and successful attempt to overthrow a Democratic leader.
But sitting still in the middle of a freeway on his way back to Tucson, with his hands behind the wheel and with zero visibility, Farley thought how inconsequential the morning’s political drama had been against the tragedy that unfolded before him.
He witnessed a horrendous pileup at about 12:30 p.m. on Interstate 10, more than halfway between and southern Arizona. The accident, which involved 19 vehicles, killed three and injured a dozen others near Picacho Peak.
It all happened in an instant, Farley said. A cloud of dust suddenly appeared, blocking his view. Farley said he slowed down and then came to a halt. He decided against going to the road’s shoulder, thinking there were cars behind him and others might try to get around him by going off the road.
“I was looking around. You could barely see the traffic going on the westbound lane, and there were some cars pulled over, and then some other trucks just kept speeding through it at full speed,” he said. “And then there was a crash: An SUV came flying out of the dust, through the air, at me, [and] ended up on its side in the median.”
The car landed some 50 feet away from him. What followed, he said, was “deathly silent.”
Farley said time slowed down; he thought three to four minutes had passed.
In fact, only about 30 seconds had passed since the car flew by.
“[Then] an 18-wheeler came crashing through. Full speed. Zero visibility. Full speed,” he said.
That truck, which was coming toward him, crashed into other vehicles, he said.
Farley said he has given his statement to authorities.
But he also wants the Arizona Department of Transportation to see what could be done to address the perennial problem of dust storms and visibility woes in that part of the freeway.
Farley surmised that if the truck had veered into his lane, it would have hit him.
“I feel very blessed. I don’t know how I was protected at that – that I was on the right side of the freeway and that it didn’t happen on our side,” he said.
“It really does put in perspective everything we battle about at the Capitol. Having just gone through that caucus meeting, it really doesn’t mean anything when it comes – I mean you can be driving home and then be gone,” he said.