Firefighters used the Jaws of Life to remove a driver from a vehicle Wednesday morning after a head-on collision occurred in an unlikely place. It happened north of Rye on a one-way stretch of Highway 87.
Two people were seriously injured, and one suffered minor injuries. All were flown to a Scottsdale hospital.
Erafah Mahmoud Arafah Juma, 27, of Dodge City, Kan. was traveling south from Holbrook to Queen Creek when he decided to pull off the highway around 10 a.m. just north of the construction area, said DPS Media Relations Officer Robert Lee Bailey.
When Juma re-entered the highway in his red Dodge Durango, he reportedly was disoriented and began traveling northbound in the southbound lanes.
While Juma was heading up the highway, Richard D. Rizzo, 35, and Jennifer Rizzo, 31, of Payson, were heading south in a black Nissan Pathfinder.
As both drivers came around a sharp curve near milepost 244, they swerved into the left shoulder to avoid each other, but collided head-on, Bailey said. Within minutes, DPS officers and Payson firefighters arrived.
Rescuers could not remove Juma right away because his right leg was trapped between the vehicle’s firewall and brake pedal.
Firefighters were unable to pry the firewall loose to remove his leg, even with the Jaws of Life.
Rescuers decided instead to cut Juma’s seat back off and pull him out through the rear passenger door.
Juma was in serous pain, even though three vials of morphine had been administered before extraction.
Both men suffered serious, but nonlife-threatening injuries, Bailey said.
Jennifer was not seriously injured. All were reportedly wearing seat belts.
No charges have been issued, but DPS continues to investigate the collision.