Man critically injured in wrong-way I-80 crash; other driver arrested for DUI

Posted at 7:28 AM, Dec 20, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-20 23:37:47-05

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah -- A man is in critical condition after a wrong-way driver struck his vehicle on eastbound Interstate 80 early Sunday morning, and the driver who struck that vehicle has been arrested for DUI.

The accident was reported at 3:02 a.m, and I-80 was closed at 2300 East as crews investigated.

The Utah Highway Patrol states a Nissan Versa was travelling north in the southbound lanes of the east belt of I-215 near 5500 South when the vehicle then entered eastbound I-80 while traveling westbound near Foothill Drive.

In the area of 2300 East, the wrong-way Nissan struck a Dodge van head-on in the left lane of I-80.

Eliza Vanorman mugshotThe driver of the Nissan, 34-year-old Eliza Vanorman of Bountiful, was wearing her seat belt and was taken to University of Utah Hospital in fair condition. She was later arrested for DUI.

"As we were speaking with the female driver, she had a strong odor of alcohol about her," said Sgt. Jacob Cox of the Utah Highway Patrol.

The driver of the Dodge van, a 21-year-old man from Salt Lake City, was taken to U of U Hospital in critical condition. UHP states: "He was not wearing his seat belt, which contributed to the severity of his injuries."

UHP provided audio from several 911 calls associated with the incident, including one from the injured man.

Caller: "My leg!"

Dispatcher: "Are you involved in the accident?

Caller: "Yes."

The call continues, with the dispatcher asking: "Is anyone pinned inside the vehicle?"

Caller: "No. Just me."

Dispatcher: "Just you in the vehicle. Are you pinned? Are you able to get out of your vehicle safely, or are you stuck?"

Caller: "No. My leg is broken."

Later in the call, the dispatcher asks: "What happened? Did a car come and hit you?

Caller: "Yes. A car was heading the wrong way on the freeway."

There were at least two other 911 calls reporting the wrong-way driver, with one caller stating: "I literally dodged it, barely."

Another caller reported the car was "going pretty fast", at about freeway speeds.

Sgt. Cox said it can be challenging to coordinate responding to a wrong-way driver.

"The trooper has to figure out where the wrong way driver is, which direction and then find the right way to get past that person in order to find the next place they can turn around to try and intersect the driver," he said. "We're not allowed to go the wrong way on the freeway, because it would cause more hazard."

In the press release, UHP offers the following tips for drivers who encounter wrong-way vehicles:

"The best course of action when a driver notices a vehicle traveling wrong-way is to pull to the nearest shoulder and get completely off the roadway.

Call 911 immediately and let the 911 operator know where you are and as many details as you can about the wrong-way driver.

Keep yourself and your passenger safe by always scanning about 15 seconds ahead, well down the roadway, checking for hazards. Always have a plan in mind, an escape route so to speak, if something goes wrong on the highway."