Tragedy struck again along the narrow stretch of State Route 160 between Pahrump and Las Vegas, claiming another life and changing travel routes for hundreds of commuters.
At approximately 5:50 p.m. Monday night, a motorcyclist swerved into oncoming traffic to pass a vehicle 4.5 miles west of the Route 160/159 interchange. The resulting crash involved three motorcycles, two SUVs, one fatality, and four transports to University Medical Center Trauma and a closing of the road in both directions for more than five hours.
The sad irony of all this is the crash happened while the Nevada Department of Transportation has begun a $16.5 million widening project for that stretch of state highway to help prevent these types of tragedies.
Since starting at the newspaper in September of 2014, I have been able to avoid various traffic ensnarements on that road between Las Vegas and Pahrump.
Last night I was among the hundreds, maybe more than a thousand, travelers who were set upon a different path by this tragedy. As I came over Mountain Springs, I could see the red shine of car brake lights ahead. I then noticed that headlights were also stationary in the distance, meaning something was stopping traffic.
My first thought was it had something to do with the aforementioned road-widening project, but as I got closer I didn’t see the flashing of road crews. Even though I was only 10 cars back when I pulled up, the cover of darkness had already blanketed the area so I couldn’t see what lay ahead.
I placed a call to Pahrump Valley Times reporter Mick Akers (see his story on A2) to check online sources to find any information on what may have happened. Basically, I was checking to see how long I would need to wait it out (it is important to note that the news that someone had died a few yard ahead was not known at this time).
Akers told me the initial report was that it was an injury accident involving multiple vehicles. Ok, that might be a couple of hours, but I could wait it out. It was 5:56 p.m., a mere six minutes after the first report of the crash. However, emergency crews had yet to arrive. When Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and Highway Patrol vehicles started to arrive en masse, I knew that something really bad had happened beyond a mere fender bender. Then vehicles started turning around and started heading back toward the mountain.
At approximately 6:15 p.m., 25 minutes after the crash, someone walked up to my car window and said the police were advising people to turn around because there was a fatality. “Bodies everywhere” is the term this apparent witness said to me. When I heard there was an unfortunate loss of life, I knew it could be close to midnight before the road was reopened (it opened around 11 p.m.)
I called my wife, told her what was happening and that I would have to take the long way home on U.S. Highway 95 through Indian Springs. I drove the 38 miles back past the Times offices, then another 112 miles to my home in Henderson. When I stopped at the gas station in town, I met another man who works in Pahrump and lives in Henderson who would also be making the journey. I’m sure we were two of many.
Just more than four hours after I left the Times offices, I finally arrived at home, 90 minutes before State Route 160 was reopened. But as I sat in my driveway, I thought about those families involved in the tragedy who would not make it back to their homes that night.
It is for those people involved that I am looking forward to seeing that road widened to avoid future tragedies.
Arnold M. Knightly is the editor of the Pahrump Valley Times