Mechanical Problems, Fire Delay Rescue

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Traffic accidents and the Edge Complex Fire tested the resources of Rim Country emergency personnel over the weekend, said Payson Fire Chief Marty deMasi.

Problems arose after firefighters at the scene of an accident on the Beeline Highway south of Payson near Deer Creek, called for the air evacuation of a seriously injured driver, who was removed from his overturned car by the jaws of life.

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Payson firefighters were unable to air-evacuate 71-year-old Frank Craig from an accident on Beeline due to helicopter mechanical problems and restricted air space around the Edge Complex Fire.

But, deMasi said, firefighters learned that helicopters were unavailable due to mechanical problems, which prevented other helicopters from flying out of Payson.

DeMasi said PFD personnel immediately called for a Valley-area helicopter to rescue the victim, but that idea was nixed too.

The Edge Complex Fire's more than 70,000-acre sprawl restricted air space for miles around, delaying the helicopter's arrival by up to 45 minutes.

"The relief helicopter would have to go the long way around," deMasi said

The accident victim, 71-year-old Frank Craig of Deer Creek, was taken by ambulance to Payson Regional Medical Center where he was treated, and later airlifted by a Flagstaff-based helicopter to Scottsdale Osborn Healthcare.

Hospital records show he is in stable condition.

Although PRMC does not have a level-one trauma center, as some Phoenix hospitals do, transporting the victim -- who was suffering from chest injuries -- to Payson was the best option.

"PRMC is a good hospital and there were some things they could do there before transporting him (to the Valley)," deMasi said.

After the investigation, Department of Public Safety Officer Henry Thomason said a citation for failure to yield at a stop sign would be issued to Craig.

The driver of the northbound vehicle that Craig collided with, Rico Gamboa, who refused treatment, will not be cited, Thomason said.

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