A four-vehicle accident Wednesday afternoon between Pine and Payson closed traffic in both directions on the Beeline Highway for several hours. Traffic in both directions was backed up for more than a mile.
Department of Public Safety Sgt. John Whetten said the driver of a black pickup truck, Gregory David Byrne, 28, of Tonto Basin, who police think caused the accident, was airlifted to a Phoenix hospital with a broken neck and femur.
Whetten said officers received a call before the accident about a person driving recklessly near Pine around 4 p.m.
About 10 to 15 minutes later, police say Byrne's vehicle, traveling southbound on Highway 87, drifted to the left of the center line on the roadway, causing his vehicle to sideswipe an oncoming green 1993 pickup driven by Marilyn Salmons, 52, of Payson.
The collision caused Salmons to lose control of her vehicle. She collided head on with Dodge pickup driven by Michael Gorczyca, 45, of Pine.
Whetten said the black truck driven by Byrne started to spin, causing a chain saw to fly out of the back of his struck, striking the front windshield of a Ford pickup, resulting in the driver losing control and striking the mountain.
The three other drivers were taken to Payson Regional Medical Center where they were treated and released.
All four of the vehicles were inoperable and had to be towed away.
The Payson Police Department, DPS and the Gila County Sheriff's Office, along with the fire departments of Payson and Diamond Star responded to the accident that occurred within one mile of East Verde Estates near milepost 257.
Numerous drivers, after waiting for an hour on the highway, turned and drove back to Payson, while others said they needed to wait it out because they lived in either Pine or Strawberry.
Whetten said police were unsure at this time what charges would be filed.
"We are investigating further to see if alcohol was involved," the DPS officer said.
If alcohol played a role in the wreck, Byrne could be charged with aggravated assault.