LANCASTER, Calif. – A blinding sandstorm that caught drivers by surprise caused a pileup Tuesday on a highway in the high desert north of Los Angeles, killing at least two people and injuring 16, authorities said.
Two victims were in critical condition after the crash that left at least a dozen vehicles scattered across the highway, Los Angeles County Fire Inspector Ron Haralson said.
The crash was reported around 1:40 p.m. during a sandstorm whipped by winds gusting up to 55 mph.
Eight vehicles and four big rigs were involved in the pileup, fire officials said.
A family of 11 visiting from Fortaleza, Brazil, were on their way to Las Vegas when their van crashed. Nine were injured and taken to Antelope Valley Hospital with broken arms, legs and lacerations, a family member said.
“All my family was in this van, all 11,” 46-year-old Fernando Amaral Pontes said, sobbing.
The accident happened just west of Edwards Air Force Base at the northern edge of Los Angeles County, not far from the site of a fiery truck pileup Friday night in a tunnel on Interstate 5. The cause of that crash, which killed three people and injured 10, is under investigation.
Tuesday’s crash left big rigs and passenger cars scattered and bent on the pavement and dirt center divider. Tow truck crews loaded mangled cars and vans onto flatbeds, including a van that appeared to have no back end. The contents of a Sears delivery van lay scattered across lanes of the freeway as fierce winds continued to blow.