Louis Buchsieb only took his eyes off the road for a split second, but it was enough time to send his 1992 Jeep Cherokee off the road and down a 75-foot embankment south of Payson.
In the time it took emergency crews to pull the dazed driver up the embankment, Buchsieb said he had learned an invaluable lesson about cellular telephones: "Put the darn cell phone away when you're driving," he said Thursday.
Buchsieb was on his way to Tucson around 7 a.m. Wednesday, he said, and was expecting a call from one of his partners.
"I reached down to organize the cell phone, which didn't take very long," he said. "When I looked up, I was going off the road to the right. I had to correct rapidly to the left, which put the vehicle into a skid, and I just skidded over the side on the other side of the road."
As he dropped down the seven-story embankment just south of Corvair Curve, the engineer said his technical mind took over, squelching any fear he may have been feeling.
"I knew full well what was going to happen, and I was just wondering if this was it," he said. "I was calculating all the way down to the bottom. All of the kinetic energy was moving, and I knew I was going to end up on the other side of that ravine."
Emergency crews were on the scene within minutes, said Department of Public Safety Officer Jim Oestman.
"It looked like he rolled at least two times before coming to rest where he did," Oestman said. He and three medics from the Payson Fire Department climbed down to the Cherokee, strapped Buchsieb to a backboard and carried him up the embankment.
The DPS officer said no citation was issued.
While the driver was en route to the hospital, LaForge Towing was able to winch the battered Jeep up the hill. Traffic on the southbound lane was restricted to one lane for about an hour while the Jeep was pulled up the hill.
While his injuries were minor --only a few lacerations to his scalp and an ear --Buchsieb said the lesson he learned was major.
"I know that's a dangerous part of the road," he said. "I had just glanced down to look at the phone, when I realized the phone had become disconnected from the charging unit. If I'd have dropped it there, I would have been fine. Instead, I added one function that there wasn't enough time to do. I plugged the phone into the charger.
"That's the lesson learned: Don't fool around with your cell phone while you're driving," he said.