Gisela Rollover Claims 3 Lives


A single-vehicle accident on the Gisela Road Saturday claimed three lives.

The deceased, pronounced dead at the scene, were Oscar Steven Spencer, 15, of Gisela, and Randy Diaz, 45, of Phoenix.

Katherine Spencer, 33, of Phoenix, the mother of the deceased boy and driver of the vehicle, died Dec. 16 at Scottsdale Healthcare Hospital. She had suffered severe head injuries in the rollover.

The accident occurred at about 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, about 300 yards north of the Tonto Creek Shores turn off, according to a report from the Gila County Sheriff’s Department.

There were nine people in the vehicle, reported by a relative of one of the victims to be a Dodge Durango. None of the passengers were wearing seat belts and all were ejected, the sheriff’s report said.

One passenger was taken to Payson Regional Medical Center by ground ambulance and released the following morning. The other surviving occupants were flown to various Valley hospitals.

Information provided to the Rim Country Middle School by Steve Darak, the stepfather of the Spencer boy, was sketchy, but he reported two of the juvenile victims were expected to be released soon.

An elementary school-age boy was reported to be semi-comatose and requiring surgery on his broken leg. Darak reportedly told the school, the doctors were cautiously optimistic about the boy’s prognosis.

Naomi Sullivan, the aunt of an 8-year-old boy injured in the accident, said he had not yet regained consciousness Monday, but had already had plastic surgery on his face. Sullivan reported her nephew had a crushed skull, torn liver, bruised lung, internal bleeding and broken wrist.

Sullivan said she is working with Wells Fargo Bank, the Payson Elks and one of the Payson churches to raise money to help her nephew’s family with medical expenses.

There was no information available about a second high school girl in the accident.

The sheriff’s department is still investigating the accident, but reported it does not appear that alcohol was a factor, however, it is possible speeding was involved.

In addition to the GCSO, the Gisela and Payson Fire Departments responded to the accident, as did the Forest Service and Life Star Ambulance. The accident closed the Gisela Road while emergency crews cleared the scene, and according to reports from officers on the scene, relayed to dispatchers, “It looked like a war zone.”

GCSO Det. George Ratliff said they did not know why so many people were in the vehicle, but there were sleeping bags thrown all over. Sullivan said her nephew was at a slumber party at the Spencer home.

Further information will be published as it becomes available.

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