About half of Payson was in the dark for a short time Friday afternoon when a bucket truck owned by Tree Pro landscaping service knocked over power lines on Granite Dells Road. Crews from Arizona Public Service were able to restore power to customers as far away as Pine within about 45 minutes.
Tree Pro owner Shane Owens said as he was returning to his business on Granite Dells Friday, he saw the boom moving on his bucket truck.
"I saw the bucket moving and I saw the truck at a critical lean," Owens said.
New employee Emily Wright was not authorized to operate the truck, but she had received an urgent call from Arizona Public Service shortly before 3 p.m. telling her that the bucket was too close to their electric lines.
"Something like that, you have to have extensive training to understand the principles," Owens said Monday. "She just felt the call was very urgent. You're required to stay within a minimum of 10 feet of the lines. The bucket was up for repairs and the hydraulics had bled off and the basket got closer to the lines. APS notified our office to do something about it right away."
Owens said he saw Wright at the controls and he also saw that the outriggers that stabilize the truck weren't down.
"I was driving up and on the horn the whole time. I saw (the truck) go over slowly and then finally crash," he said.
And when it crashed onto the lines and fell on its side, power went out in half of Payson and to customers as far north as Pine. Jan Parsons of APS said power was restored after about 45 minutes, at 3:45 p.m. Payson Police had been dispatched to all the intersections with traffic lights in town to direct traffic.
The power was out across the street at Wal-Mart where Angie Martinez, another Tree Pro employee, had been on a cell phone with Wright trying to talk her through the tricky maneuvers of moving the basket away from the line.
"There was the beginning of a scream and then all of a sudden the power went out," Martinez said. "It scared the heck out of me."
Wright said she rode the truck down to the ground, bracing herself against the control panel. She escaped with a few bumps and bruises, and went right back to work, calling customers to reschedule appointments.
"She was awesome," Martinez said later.
Owens was also impressed with Wright and was relieved once he saw that she was all right. He was also thankful that no one walking along the road was hurt. "There's quite a lot of foot traffic in there," he said. "We were lucky.
"But the truck costs between $50,000 and $60,000, and I worked quite a while to be in a position to get a truck like that. When you see that fall over to its side, it really makes a big ol' lump stick in your throat."
By Monday morning, Owens had not yet seen an insurance adjuster. Asked if he had insurance enough to cover it, he said he hoped so.
Parsons said APS will follow normal procedures and will file a claim against Owens' company for the time and material it took to put the line back up.
Owens uses the truck on a daily basis in his work for everything from hanging the town's banners on the light poles to trimming and removing trees and getting pets out of high places.
He has already found out that he does have good neighbors and a lot of caring people in Payson.
Owens said people from all over town came by to help with backhoes and loaders and stayed until the work of righting the truck and cleaning the spilled oil was done at sundown.
"We had just tons of people coming around helping. When we got everything back up, people cheered.
"That's the first time it's happened, and hopefully the last," Owens said.