Three Recovering From Frightful Crash

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A young Payson man who was tossed 40 feet from the Jeep he was riding in last Friday is now off the respirator and recuperating in a Valley hospital.

Jay Fife, 20, is improving daily, his father, Tom, said Thursday.

Fife and two others were injured during a single vehicle rollover on the Houston Mesa Road.

On June 11, 19-year-old Forrest Gressley was driving his 1984 Jeep Wrangler with Rhett Melton, 20, in the passenger seat and Fife in the rear when he apparently lost control of the vehicle near the Beaver Valley subdivision entrance, about 6.5 miles northeast of Highway 87. It was about 5:30 p.m. when the Jeep rolled over 3 1/2 times, said Sgt. Bob Birgam of the Gila County Sheriff's Department.

All three men were seriously injured and taken by helicopter to Valley hospitals. Paramedics from Mesa Del Caballo and Payson Fire Departments responded to the scene.

Melton's father, Robert, said Thursday his son and Gressley were already home recuperating. The younger Melton suffered severe road rash on his back and a cut through the bicep of his right arm, sources said.

Fife, the most seriously injured of the three, is in the Barrow's Neurological Ward at St. Joseph's Hospital in Phoenix.

While Fife's doctors are closely monitoring his head injury, he is alert, recognizing his family and trying to talk to them, his father said.

"We are taking it one step at a time," Tom Fife said.

The younger Fife will undergo surgical repair of two broken ankles and his broken right leg.

"It was lucky that any of them lived through it," the elder Melton said after seeing what was left of Gressley's Jeep.

Gressley and Melton have already paid Fife a visit in the hospital. Gressley, who officials say suffered a broken ankle and injuries to both wrists and his back, made the appearance in a wheelchair.

Tom Fife, a Payson Fire Department lieutenant, credits a guardian angel a stranger named Brett whose last name no one involved knows -- for his son's life. It was Brett who first arrived at the accident and found the younger Fife some 40 feet from the vehicle.

"I don't think any of them had seat belts (on)," Fife said. Brett stayed with the seriously injured young man until help arrived and has already checked on him at the hospital.

The other two boys don't remember much about the accident, Melton said. "Rhett saw the curve coming and the next thing he remembers is waking up in Phoenix in the hospital," he said.

Birgam said speed appears to have played a role in the accident. He said he is waiting for lab results to determine if alcohol was also involved.

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