A Pine man was killed after he and his wife pulled their car off the road on Highway 87 just north of the traffic roundabout at Houston Mesa Road in Payson Thursday.
Witnesses to the accident stood in a circle, hand-in-hand, on the roadside and offered a prayer for the occupants of the yellow car.
"It was surreal -- like something you might see in the movies," said Tauna Moody, who was visibly shaken after seeing the accident.
"The woman in the van started drifting into oncoming traffic way back there (on southbound SR87)," Moody said. "We thought, ‘there must be something wrong,' and then she hit the yellow car."
At 3:05 p.m., after receiving simultaneous 911 calls, emergency teams rushed to the scene and the highway was closed.
According to police reports, 58-year-old Charles William Walters of Pine was killed after the southbound van crossed over the centerline and struck the yellow Chevy Tracker, which was parked on the northbound side of the highway.
"We believe that Mr. Walters, at least in the preliminary investigation, was outside of the vehicle and that the door of the vehicle was possibly open," said Commander Don Engler of the Payson Police Department.
Walters' wife, 54-year-old Janis Devlin Walters, was airlifted to Scottsdale Osborne Healthcare with serious injuries. It is unclear why the couple had stopped their car on the side of the highway after shopping for groceries in Payson.
The driver of the van was 74-year-old Evelyn Nadine Yeager of New River, Ariz. She did not appear to be injured.
"She could have hit anywhere," Moody said. "It was hard to believe she hit the one car parked on the road. We wondered if she was unconscious. I didn't see her slow down."
Another witness, Deana Barr, immediately ran to the yellow Tracker to offer assistance.
"When I got there, I knew the woman needed more help than I could give her," Barr said.
Preliminary reports do not indicate that alcohol was a factor in the accident, Engler said.
What caused Yeager to veer across the four-lane highway is still under investigation.
The highway north to Pine and Strawberry was closed for more than an hour. Once opened, traffic was restricted to one lane until about 6:30 p.m.