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Updated: Dust-storm crashes kill one, injure many near Picacho, Casa Grande
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Updated: Dust-storm crashes kill one, injure many near Picacho, Casa Grande

Zero visibility during a massive dust storm led to the death of one man and many injured in a series of collisions on I-10 near Picacho Peak midday Tuesday, a Department of Public Safety spokesman said.

Westbound lanes of the highway remained closed during the evening.

Interstate 10 was closed in both directions near Picacho Peak for hours after a dust storm caused two multi-vehicle pileups.

Another pileup near Casa Grande also closed the highway.

The crashes occurred as blowing dust reduced visibility to zero, said the DPS's Bart Graves.

At about 12:15 p.m., there were two chain reaction crashes, involving 16 total vehicles, in the westbound lanes near Picacho Peak, Graves said.

William Tatsch, 66, of Austin, Tex., died in the wreck. His wife, driver Paula Tatsch, 65, sustained life-threatening injuries, as did one other person.

"There were numerous other people treated for non-life-threatening injuries at Tucson area hospitals," Graves said.

At least 15 were thought to be seriously injured in the Picacho-area crashes, strung out along the highway near milepost 217, Graves said.

"We closed the eastbound lanes to allow emergency responders access to the scene. Due to the poor visibility, all patients were transported by ground ambulance to Tucson-area hospitals," Graves said.

The eastbound lanes were reopened at 5:48 p.m., he said.

First responders "had to contend with blowing dust and low visability for hours during the rescue operation," Graves said. "The weather system that brought this dust storm literally parked itself over Interstate 10 for hours."

At 1:44 p.m., another crash related to the dust storm involved 8 vehicles in the eastbound lanes of I-10 near McCartney Road, near milepost 190 north of Casa Grande, he said.

Although there were multiple injuries, "to my knowledge no one involved in this crash has life-threatening injuries," Graves said.

Another crash in which a dust storm played a factor occurred near milepost 175 on westbound I-10 near Chandler at 3:49 p.m.

That collision, involving two tractor-trailer rigs and a small passenger car, seriously injured two people in the car, Graves said.

Both both commercial and passenger vehicles were involved in the Picacho crashes, Graves said. It's unknown how long the highway will be closed. DPS advised motorists to use State Route 79 for all travel to and from Tucson at least through Wednesday morning.

The National Weather Service issued a blowing dust advisory for Southeast Arizona, effective until 7 p.m.

Note: Differing reports of the numbers of vehicles and locations of the collisions led to earlier reports of four pileups.

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