Four of an Indian family perish in Arizona car crash fire

Ritu Jha-

Four Indians reportedly died in a car crash between their car and a semi-truck on the Interstate 17 near Flagstaff, Arizona, on September 18. According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), the car erupted into flames after the crash. According to local media reports, the DPS said that impairment didn’t play a part in the crash.

A DPS spokesman said that the four people who died have yet to be identified due to the intensity of the fire.

A local Indian American community leader Venkat Kommineni told indica over the phone that a couple and their two young sons died on the spot.

The police have not released the names of the victims, but according to Kommineni, the four people are Vijayalakshmi Gopal, Nagarajan (both parents), Athish Nagarajan, and Dhinesh Nagarajan (both sons). “The parents are from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and were visiting their sons in the US,” Kommineni said.

Kommineni, who is associated with the Indian Association of Phoenix and the Arizona Telugu Association, told indica it is too early to say who will be coming from India, but they are awaiting word from family members who may be able to reach the US.

Vijaya Nirmala Gopal, a woman who claimed to be the deceased Vijayalakshmi’s younger sister, took to Twitter for help asking Dr S Jaishankar, India’s minister of external affairs for help with securing a US visa to visit Arizona.

She tweeted at 3am India time on September 20: “Victim name details: Vijaya Lakshmi Gopal, Nagarajan, Athish Nagarajan,
Dhinesh Nagarajan in Phoenix. Am the blood relative and younger sister of Vijayalakshmi. Please help.”

According to a report submitted by the DPS, the driver of the semi-truck told DPS Troopers that his breaks had failed leading to the crash. Officials said the crash happened southbound on I-17 near milepost 298 just south of State Route 179 at roughly 2:18 in the afternoon.

According to a local NBC affiliate, “The semi-trailer, which was loaded with glass, failed to stop at a stop sign near the I-17 exit and collided with a passenger car traveling north on SR 179. Both vehicles were pushed off the roadway down a nearby embankment where the semi landed on top of the car. Officials say that both vehicles were quickly engulfed in flames.”

It added, “Although the driver of the semi managed to escape his vehicle uninjured, DPS said that the four occupants in the car were pronounced dead on the scene.”

According to Kommineni, the elder of the two sons – Athish Nagarajan – was employed as global supply manager at Lucid Motors, Arizona, while his younger brother Dhinesh was a regional sales manager at ARCX, Inc. “Dhinesh studied for his undergraduate and graduate degree at Arizona State University. He earned a bachelor’s in Applied Math and later a Masters in Data Analytics. He was also a talented musician.”

Kommineni said the bodies are being kept at Yavapai County, Arizona.

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