Rollover knocks out power, ruptures natural gas line

The driver of a Chevy Avalanche walked away from this rollover collision which broke two power poles and a high pressure gas line on Sunday morning, a mile south of Wickenburg on US 60.

By Jeanie Hankins

Publisher

A vehicle rollover one mile south of Wickenburg Sunday morning downed power lines, ruptured a high-pressure gas pipe and brought traffic to a complete stop for more than two hours as emergency crews unraveled the dangerous situation along US 60.

Joseph Starkweather, 22, of Cave Creek told Department of Public Safety troopers he fell asleep while traveling southbound in a Chevrolet Avalanche just before 8 a.m. The vehicle left the road near K9 Konnection, rolled one complete time, and came to rest on its tires. In its path was an above-ground Southwest Gas valve. The Avalanche compromised the gas line, before hitting a power pole which broke off below the cross arms, and fell to the ground, pulling another pole down with it.

With natural gas spewing into the air and active power lines hanging precariously close to his smashed vehicle, Starkweather jumped out and ran to safety.

Wickenburg resident Valarie Shumway witnessed the wreck and stopped. “At first we had no idea what danger we were in,” Shumway said. She attempted to call 911 but the operator couldn’t make out what she was saying because of the noise of the pressurized gas line leak. “I didn’t know anything about the gas line so I didn’t understand why there was so much noise.

“When I looked up, I was walking to the scene, I saw the young man coming toward me, I was amazed. I couldn’t believe he was walking, and he didn’t seem hurt,” Shumway said.

According to Wickenburg Fire Chief Ed Temerowski, Wickenburg Police, Fire and DPS responded and quickly shut down the highway. APS crews deactivated the power line, causing an outage to customers in the area. Southwest Gas workers then safely secured the pipe and were able to re-pressurize the line feeding Wickenburg to avoid a loss of service.

About two hours after the wreck, when the area was deemed safe, the highway reopened. APS crews worked into the afternoon to replace poles and restore power.

Shumway stayed with Starkweather throughout the ordeal. “He thanked us several times for stopping and checking on him and staying with him and apologized for causing so much trouble to the community,” Shumway said.

The Avalanche was towed, and Starkweather was picked up by family members, having suffered only minor injuries. He was cited for failure to drive in the right lane.

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