Two Payson High School students were seriously injured in one of two accidents that occurred within a few minutes and 100 yards of each other on the Beeline Highway just south of Pine Monday morning.
Katie Burge, 16, her sister Jacqueline, 15, and their father (who could not be identified by press time) were transported to Payson Regional Medical Center on advanced life support, said Captain Don Chester of the Pine-Strawberry fire district, who was in command of stabilizing traffic at the scene.
"We were called to respond to an injury-accident at 7:39 (Monday) morning, and upon arrival found that there was actually two different accidents in the same area, about 100 yards apart," Chester said.
"The first accident (which did not involve the Burges) occurred, we are speculating, when a southbound driver slowed down because the sun was directly in his eyes. The driver of another vehicle didn't see them in time and rear-ended the first car.
"As traffic slowed down because of that accident, another driver (The Burge sisters' father) appears to have also been blinded by the sun, and he slammed also into the rear of another car," Chester said.
"The head or face of one of the girls put a hole in the windshield, blowing out the glass on the other side. The other girl hit the visor and busted the windshield in the top right corner."
"I can't say for certain that (the Burges) were not wearing seat belts ... but their injuries would indicate that they were not," said Chester, who did not know the injuries sustained by the father.
Officers for the Department of Public Safety in Payson who responded to the accident were not available to provide further details.
There were a total of six people involved in the two accidents. Three, the Burge sisters and their father, were transported to PRMC; two refused medical assistance; and one suffered a "lacerated or broken nose" and left the scene.
Both lanes of Highway 87 were closed for 30 minutes starting at about 8:10 a.m. Officers alternated traffic between both lanes of the Beeline Highway until they were cleared at 8:55 a.m.
"As far as being able to see while driving south on that stretch of road, the sun is really bad twice a year for about a week in the fall and spring, and we're in that period right now. As we were doing traffic control, there were a couple of occasions where I was almost hit because drivers couldn't see.
"The sun is the most blinding between 7 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. People need to slow down when they go through there at this time of year."