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Wed, Sept. 18

3 killed, 4 hurt in wrong-way collision on I-17

PHOENIX, Arizona - Three people from Indonesia were killed and three passengers suffered seriously injures Friday in a collision on Interstate 17 after their minivan was struck by a wrong-way driver's car, authorities said.

State Department of Public Safety officials said Evan Christian Hendriadi, 50; Jenny Sudjono, 70; and Lioe Kim Tjhiuw, 78, died in the crash.

Three others, including a 9-year-old from Indonesia, suffered serious injuries. An adult and the boy were airlifted to John C. Lincoln North Mountain Hospital and Phoenix Children's Hospital, respectively, official said. The driver of the van, a 42-year-old man from Rancho Cucamonga, California, was also injured, police said.

The fatal wrong-way accident was the second in five days in Arizona.

In Friday's crash, officials say the wrong-way vehicle drove at least 20 miles northbound on southbound lanes before it collided with the rented minivan about 30 miles north of Phoenix.

The driver of the wrong-way car, a Phoenix man described as in his 60s, also was injured. His name has not been released, and authorities suspect he was impaired.

An off-duty Mesa police officer, Brandon Mendoza, was killed early Monday morning when his car collided head-on on a Tempe freeway ramp with an SUV driven by a Phoenix man later determined to have been intoxicated.

In the I-17 accident, Cook said, the wrong-way driver at a minimum likely would face reckless driving charges for driving the wrong way on the freeway.

But "this is a homicide scene," and evidence of impairment would elevate the possible criminal charges, Cook said from the accident site in rugged desert hill country. "We would be looking at least three counts of manslaughter ... and at least three counts of aggravated assault," he said.

About 4 a.m., authorities started getting 911 calls about the wrong-way driver driving on I-17 on the extreme northern fringe of the Phoenix area, and officers immediately began trying to intercept the vehicle, Cook said.

In response to an alert from a dispatcher, a Department of Public Safety sergeant was turning around on an I-17 overpass when the wrong-way driver drove through the interchange at high speed, Cook said.

The sergeant couldn't catch up to the wrong-way driver before the collision, Cook said.

Department of Public Safety officers also tried unsuccessfully to intercept the wrong-way driver in the Monday incident, with one officer attempting to ram that vehicle. But the wrong-way driver swerved around the officers' patrol unit. That driver had traveled 35 miles on three freeways from Scottsdale through Phoenix to Tempe before being killed in the crash that also fatally injured Mendoza.

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