A 32-year-old worker on a construction project west of the Country Club Vistas subdivision died Thursday afternoon when the backhoe he was operating rolled down a 150-foot embankment.
Robert Wiles, 32, was pronounced dead at the scene when emergency crews arrived at the site.
Wiles was operating a backhoe near an embankment at the edge of the new subdivision, Gila County Sheriff's Detective George Ratliff said, and for some reason, went over the edge backwards on the machine.
"The backhoe hit about an eight-inch tree and took that down. I think that's what kept the backhoe from rolling over," he said.
Wiles, however, was thrown from the vehicle and died from massive injuries from the impact of his fall.
"An autopsy will be done, but we think he probably died from a broken neck," he said. "You could tell there was no rigidity in it."
Sgt. Terry Hudgens said Monday that investigators believe Wiles suffered spinal separations in two places, and broke all of his ribs.
A viewing is tentatively set from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday, at Payson Messinger Funeral Home, 302 West Aero Drive. The funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday.