Woman killed on I-17, shutting down highway in both directions - FOX 35 News Orlando

Hit-and-run driver arrested after woman killed, good Samaritan injured on I-17

Posted: Updated:
Alberto Lopez-Ruelas Alberto Lopez-Ruelas
PHOENIX (KSAZ) -

Authorities suspect a woman was driving drunk when she slammed her car into a highway median early Saturday morning, setting off a chain reaction of deadly crashes. 

Law enforcement has also charged a 33-year-old man who allegedly hit a good Samaritan at the scene.

That set off a deadly chain reaction of crashes that left one person dead and three people in the hospital. Two of those who were hurt are facing criminal charges.

Interstate 17 was shut down in both directions Saturday morning for about six hours as Department of Public Safety officials investigated this terrible series of crashes.

Authorities say an impaired driver crashed her car first then she was hit by another car. That impact catapulted her passenger over a median and into oncoming traffic.

But that's not all.

A good Samaritan pulled over to try and help and he ended up getting hit too.

DPS officials believe the woman behind the wheel may have been driving drunk as she was going northbound on I-17 early Saturday morning.

She somehow lost control and crashed into the median.

Then, a red Mercury slammed into the crashed car.

Investigators say the sheer force of that impact ejected the passenger of the white car.

"...catapults her over the wall into the southbound lanes where she is struck numerous times," DPS spokesman Bart Graves said.

The passenger did not make it, but sadly she wasn't the last person hit.

A man who was driving a red sedan saw the whole thing and pulled over to try and help.

"He sees what occurs, he runs across the freeway to render aid, he is struck by a black SUV. [The SUV's driver] leaves the scene," said Graves.

DPS says Alberto Lopez-Ruelas hit the good Samaritan and then fled the scene. He later returned.

"I know it's a very strong urge by very good people to help someone, but you have to understand in this urban freeway, it's pitch dark at night. There's a lot of traffic. Best thing to do is pull to the side of the road, call us we'll be out here in minutes," said Graves.

The good Samaritan and the drivers of the other two cars all had surgery at area hospitals and are all expected to be okay.

Meanwhile, the crashes shut down I-17 at Thunderbird in both directions for hours, backing up traffic, forcing drivers off the freeway on to city streets and leaving some late for work.

"I take the 17 every day. It's usually pretty backed up in the mornings, like usual rush hour traffic. I've never seen it where they closed it completely down," said Julian Feller.

DPS believes the driver who started this chain reaction crash may have been impaired; she's facing manslaughter charges.

Alberto Lopez-Ruelas was arrested and charged with hit-and-run with injury and damage to vehicle and failure to render aid.

DPS believes a second good Samaritan tried to help just moments after the original crash and are asking witnesses to come forward with information.

If you were driving on I-17 around 5:20 a.m. and think you might have seen anything, you're asked to call the Department of Public Safety.

UPDATE: DPS has identified a woman killed in an accident on I-17 in Phoenix the morning of April 5.  They say 18-year-old Chelsea Barker of Maricopa was killed when she was struck by several times by southbound vehicles after being ejected from a northbound car that first struck a median wall and then was struck by another car.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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