- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 1, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A fiery wrong-way crash killed both drivers and shut down a major Phoenix freeway for six hours early Tuesday after people tried in vain to stop an impaired driver from getting behind the wheel, authorities said.

The wrong-way vehicle was eastbound on westbound Loop 101 when it crashed head-in into the second car. The six-hour shutdown extended through the morning commute.

The wrong-way vehicle caught fire after the crash and both drivers were dead at the scene, Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Quentin Mehr said.

Identities weren’t released.

Mehr said impairment is suspected, and a DPS captain at the scene said authorities had received calls about a possibly impaired driver in the area shortly before the crash.

People to stop that driver from getting into his car at a gas station but were unsuccessful, Department of Public Safety Capt. Tim Mason told KPHO/KTVK-TV (https://goo.gl/QXhBeP ).

After the errant driver got on the freeway, “he would ultimately go head-on with another vehicle,” Mason said. “This is a tragic morning.”

Mason said some of the people at the gas station followed the driver and called 911 to report his whereabouts but that the wreck happened soon after.

Wrong-way drivers have been common on Phoenix-area freeways, prompting Arizona transportation officials to take steps that include conducting a test of sensors to alert authorities and other motorists.

The DPS said in July that it received more than 840 calls about wrong-way drivers in the first half of 2016. Not all of the calls led troopers to find wrong-way drivers, but the agency said more than a dozen such drivers were involved in serious or fatal collisions. An additional 51 were arrested for suspected impairment.

News video of Tuesday’s scene showed the mangled and burned wreckage of the wrong-way vehicle next to the median wall. Another severely damaged vehicle sat in the middle of traffic lanes.

The wreck occurred shortly after 3 a.m. and the freeway was not reopened until just past 9 a.m.

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