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2:49 AM Sun, Nov. 18th

Fatal accident snarls Highway 69

Firefighters work to extricate a victim Friday from a multiple-vehicle accident on Highway 69. Rescue crews sent the six people who had been riding in this car either to Yavapai Regional Medical Center or Phoenix-area hospitals. Four of them were in critical condition. The seventh person, who was riding in the car's trunk, died at the scene.

Courier/Jo. L. Keener

"The passenger that died in this Honda was actually in the trunk of the car at the time of the accident," he said.

He said the drivers of the Durango and the Mitsubishi also suffered injuries.

Janik said although initially police believed that five vehicles were involved in the accident, the fifth vehicle, which pulled over, does not appear to have been directly involved in the crash.

Within about 45 minutes from the time the accident took place, three helicopters arrived on the scene to airlift three patients – the Honda driver and two of his passengers – to John C. Lincoln North Hospital in Phoenix, Janik said.

Paramedics took five other people to Yavapai Regional Medical Center. From there, emergency personnel airlifted one of those patients – another Honda passenger – to a Phoenix-area hospital for treatment of her injuries.

This stretch of Highway 69 has earned the nickname "Blood Alley" because of the significant number of fatal traffic accidents that have occurred in the past.

Janik said that the Prescott Valley Police Department closed Highway 69 in both directions, which led to significant back ups that stretched from the accident scene westbound all the way to Prescott Lakes Parkway.

The situation was not any better on the Prescott Valley side as authorities tried to divert westbound traffic to Glassford Hill Road and then to Highway 89A.

Prescott Police tried to alleviate the traffic congestion by rerouting eastbound traffic to Prescott Lakes Parkway and then to highways 89 and 89A. Two hours after the accident the bumper-to-bumper line of cars was moving slowly in this direction.

While officers and volunteers were busy clearing the main accident scene and re-routing traffic, at least five other accidents happened as a result of the traffic conges-tion.

Luckily, none of them were injury accidents.

Janik said a combination of factors caused the significant traffic delays.

"Busy holiday shopping traffic compounded this issue," he said. "We've got a couple of holiday events going on, on both sides of this accident. We have the Gingerbread thing going at the Prescott Resort and we've got the Valley of Lights in Prescott Valley.

"Plus the fact that we had to shut down traffic at such significant amount of space – from Glassford Hill to almost Prescott Lakes Parkway," he said.

Janik said that a number of agencies responded to the accident scene including personnel and volunteers from the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, the Central Yavapai Fire District and LifeLine Ambulance.

The names and ages of the victims, and any charges as a result of the accident, were unavailable at press time. Authorities have not yet notified next of kin.

Contact the reporter at mburicadam@prescottaz.com