Two female passengers riding in an overloaded sport utility vehicle were killed Friday after a tire blew out and caused it to rollover five times.
State Police officials said the wreck occurred on U.S. Highway 666 shortly before noon.
According to police reports, the driver of the Chevrolet Suburban, which contained 15 people, was driving 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit and lost control of the wheel when the right rear tire burst as the vehicle approached the highway¹s 98-mile marker.
When the automobile flipped over, police said several of its occupants were ejected, including Alicia Gerandt, 18, of Columbus, Ga. and Brandi Korba, 19, of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., Both teenagers died at the scene.
Ten of the passengers who were injured in the accident were sent to local hospitals in Shiprock and Farmington, and one of the vehicle¹s occupants was flown to a hospital in Phoenix.
Police reported that none of the passengers were wearing seat belts. ³This was a disaster waiting to happen, and it could have been avoided,² said State Police Officer Brent Ray, who was among those responding to the accident. ³This could have been prevented just by people wearing seat belts.²
Ray said the vehicle was carrying double the amount of passengers it was designed to transport, and several of them were sitting on the laps of others. The officer said that all drivers put themselves in a very dangerous situation when they overload a vehicle because it throws off the center of gravity, thereby increasing the likelihood of a rollover.
Police said that all of the passengers were between the ages of 18 and 25, and employees of a magazine company called Atlantic Circulation, Inc., which is based in Mountville, Pa. The group was traveling from Cortez, Colo.. to Farmington to sell magazine subscriptions.
The driver, who police did not identify, received a citation for careless driving, speeding, and no proof of insurance.
Police said that as of Saturday they have not been able to contact the company.