The glaring afternoon sun, combined with a dirty windshield, contributed to a three-car accident Saturday that left one man dead and closed Highway 260 for about 30 minutes on a busy holiday weekend.
Robert Chicharello, 53, of Mentmore, N.M., was pronounced dead at the scene from injuries suffered when a Ford pickup truck driven by Norece Hatch of Higley, Ariz. crossed the center line.
According to Department of Public Safety Officer Greg LaMoine, the accident happened at 3:20 p.m. near milepost 262 on Highway 260, just west of Little Green Valley.
A vehicle driven by a third man, Mike Barlow of Centerville, Utah, was traveling east on Highway 260; Chicharello was behind him in his 2000 GMC suburban.
"The vehicle driven by Hatch was traveling westbound, and crossed the center line, swiping the vehicle driven by Barlow," LaMoine said. "Hatch's vehicle continued farther across the center line, where it struck the vehicle driven by Chicharello head on, left headlight to left headlight. Hatch said he experienced sun glare, which was exacerbated by a dirty windshield."
Officers think Chicharello died instantly from massive chest wounds inflicted by the steering wheel and crumpled dashboard. Chicharello's passengers, his wife and two grandchildren, suffered only minor injuries and were treated and released from Payson Regional Medical Center.
"He was wearing a seat belt, but even if he hadn't, the result would have been the same," LaMoine said. "Even the airbag, which did not deploy, wouldn't have changed the outcome."
Hatch was traveling with his wife, and both were treated and released from the Payson hospital. Barlow was uninjured.
At this point, LaMoine said the accident is still under investigation, but said preliminary reports indicate that sun glare was the causal factor in the accident. No citations have been issued.