Two people are dead and two are critically injured after a 15-passenger van rollover accident Sept. 12 on Interstate 10 near Benson, Arizona. According to an Associated Press news report, the multi vehicle crash happened when the 15-passenger Dodge van lost control and overturned after its driver swerved to avoid a dog on the highway.
Two people — Richard Spettigue, 56, of Casa Grande and Brandon Spettigue, 22, of Surprise – who were following the van in an Acura sport utility vehicle died after a big rig hit them from behind. The SUV braked to avoid the passenger van. The van’s driver, 47-year-old Elizabeth Zazueta and cheerleader Tyler Cline, 16, both suffered critical injuries. Other passengers in the Dodge van including seven students and two coaches were also injured and taken to an area hospital. The students were all from San Manuel High School near Tucson. Sally Spettigue, 41 the driver of the SUV and a passenger in the big rig were also hospitalized.
My heart goes out to the Spettigue family who lost so much in an instant. Let’s also keep the cheerleader and the coach who are fighting for their lives in our prayers.
It is unbelievable that high school administrators would put their beloved students and coaches in a 15-passenger van, notorious for its tendency to roll over and cause catastrophic injuries and fatalities. Despite repeated warnings from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, community groups and organizations, high schools, colleges and even child care centers continue to transport groups of people in these “death traps.”
NHTSA’s research shows that there is a significant rollover risk in 15-passenger vans when the van is fully loaded. In 2006, 50 percent of occupant fatalities that occurred were in vans that were fully loaded. Other factors that usually contribute to 15-passenger van rollover crashes include improperly inflated tires, defective tires and inexperienced drivers.
I would strongly urge the victims of this accident to contact a national 15-passenger van rollover attorney, who will further investigate this accident and help them get the compensation they rightfully deserve. The family of Richard Spettigue and Brandon Spettigue should promptly consult a skilled personal injury lawyer and determine whether the big rig was speeding when it crashed into the Acura.