Law enforcement received reports of a driver speeding east in the westbound lanes on I-40 near Hopi Travel Plaza just before 4 p.m. Saturday, according to the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Officials said the wrong-way driver slammed into the New Season Christian Fellowship van near milepost 297, causing the wrong-way vehicle to catch fire and become engulfed in flames.
The wrong-way vehicle driver and the driver of the church van both died at the scene. Five other van passengers were transported to a Winslow medical center for treatment, where they remain hospitalized.
According to a Facebook post from Heidi Capozzi, the lead pastor at the Apache Junction church the church van was returning from a youth camp.
While all the facts are not yet known, the church Facebook post says an elderly man with dementia drove for five miles going the wrong way on I-40 before the crash occurred. The investigation into the wrong way crash is ongoing at this time.
Capozzi wrote that one of the passengers remained in a medically induced coma Sunday. Another individual suffered a broken femur and shattered pelvis, and a third had internal bleeding, she said. The fourth passenger had multiple breaks in her hand and ankle, while the fifth suffered a broken femur, Capozzi said.
Our condolences go to the families who lost loved ones in the crash.