Errant Fire Truck Stalls Beeline Traffic

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Payson Fire Chief John Ross escaped injury Wednesday morning when the fire truck he was driving to an emergency medical call spun out of control south of East Verde Estates on Highway 87.

Two firefighters on the truck with Ross, Marty deMasi and Gary Lamken, received minor injuries and were taken to Payson Regional Medical Center where they were examined and released.

Department of Public Safety Patrolman Greg LeMoine said deMasi had abrasions to his arm and leg and Lamken had neck and lower back pain, or soft tissue injury.

Ross said Thursday that he was extremely grateful that nobody was seriously injured in the accident.

LeMoine said Ross was heading north in the truck at 10:40 a.m. to provide backup for a medical emergency in East Verde Estates. The right tires on the engine-pumper went off the road onto the dirt shoulder.

"He was traveling between 50 and 55 miles per hour," LeMoine said. "It's normal to do 70 on emergency responses in that area, which was a straight-away."

LeMoine said Ross is certified to drive the engine, but was driving slower than normal on the medical run because it was a vehicle that he hadn't driven much.

"They didn't have a driver available," LeMoine said.

Once the truck's tires went off the road, Ross over-corrected, crossed the roadway and the left wheels went off the opposite shoulder.

LeMoine said that Ross prevented the truck from going over an embankment, swerved back to the right and the truck began to rotate.

"It struck the dirt bluff twice, once on the left front and once on the left rear," he said. "That's where it stopped."

The three occupants were all wearing seat belts and shoulder harnesses and were prevented from more extensive injuries by an extra bumper on both the front and rear of the truck, called a diamond plate.

The 1989 Pierce custom-made engine had damage to its front bumper and emergency lights and its rear bumper and storage units, Lemoine said.

A DPS investigation continues, he said. "There is potential for the possibility of mechanical or design problems.

"Chief Ross said he experienced lack of steering response in the mechanism."

LeMoine said he talked to others at the Payson Fire Department who have driven the truck. He said they had experienced similar problems with the steering in the past.

DPS commercial vehicle safety specialists from the Phoenix office will be in Payson next week to examine the truck.

LeMoine said the safety specialists will also look at whether the tank is mounted on the truck for proper weight distribution.

"It was loaded with 500 gallons of water," he said. "Once you start that much mass in motion, it's hard to recover."

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