A four-ton water tender carrying a 10-ton load rolled over twice Saturday morning after the driver Rim Trail Domestic Water Improvement District manager Joseph Knoell "overcorrected" after veering onto the shoulder of Houston Mesa Road.
The accident occurred during a light rainfall at about 10:30 a.m. as Knoell was driving the water tender north, about 1,000 feet past the first crossing bridge.
There, Houston Mesa/Beaver Valley Fire Chief Frank Hansen said, Knoell "pulled over to accommodate an oncoming vehicle, and the front wheel caught the soft shoulder. In overcorrecting it, he rolled at least twice totaling the water tender."
Knoell, who was airlifted to Scottsdale Healthcare-Osborne hospital, suffered head lacerations and a fractured vertebrae in his back.
"Otherwise, he's going to be OK, according to the last I heard," Hansen said Monday. "There is no paralysis ... but they're fitting him for a brace, and he should be in the hospital for the next four days."
The water tender, which was hauled from the scene on the back of a flatbed wrecker, belonged to the Whispering Pines Fire Department. Its value, depending on the equipment which might be salvaged from the wreckage, was between $25,000 and $30,000, Hansen estimated.
Until the Whispering Pines Fire Department can replace its sole water tender, Hansen said that his department will be covering the Whispering Pines area with his department's two water tenders.
The Gila County Sheriff's Department responded with four units, Sgt. Craig Smith said, "because it was reported as a tanker and could have been a haz-mat situation."
As it turned out, the gas tanks used to power the vehicle's portable pumps were leaking, but "it was a minor fuel spill," Hansen said. "We just washed it down and diluted it."
No citations will be issued, said GCSO Deputy Doreen Spychala, who wrote up the accident report.
This isn't the first time in the past month that Knoell has been in the news. Three weeks ago, an indictment handed down by a Gila County grand jury charged him with three felonies related to the operation of the Rim Trail Domestic Water Improvement District and the misappropriation of at least $10,000 of water district funds between December 1998 and December 2000.
Knoell's next court appearance is a case management conference scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Monday, May 6, in Globe.