PHOENIX - Multi-vehicle accidents on Interstate 8 caused by a dust storm took two lives Wednesday and injured 12 others near the rural community of Stanfield that closed the highway in both directions for several hours, authorities said.
High winds and blowing dust reduced visibility to near zero and triggered the midmorning wreckage in the westbound lanes, Department of Public Safety spokesman Jim Oien said.
Celia Sylvester, 78, of Oregon, was pronounced dead at the scene and her husband, Robert Sylvester, 86, died after being transported to Maricopa County Regional Medical Center, DPS officials said. Their son, Dennis Sylvester, 57, also of Oregon, was treated for minor injuries at the hospital.
The family's hometown was not available immediately.
Five others who were injured also were transported to Maricopa County Regional Medical Center, while two were taken to Casa Grande Regional Medical Center, two were taken to Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix and two were treated and released at the scene, DPS said.
Eight vehicles were involved in four separate collisions, said Oien (pronounced Oy-yen).
Television footage showed a tangle of several big rigs, a motor home, travel trailer and several passenger cars across several freeway lanes and in the highway median.
Eight helicopters transported those injured to Phoenix-area hospitals, he said.
Initial reports that indicated several fatalities were discounted, Oien said.
The accident happened on a stretch of I-8 about 50 miles south of Phoenix and 16 miles west of the junction between I-8 and Interstate 10.
The highway remained closed in both directions several hours after the collisions.