Two Tragic Traffic Deaths

Payson woman allegedly caused Valley crashes

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Valley officials are investigating what led a Payson woman to reportedly drive her vehicle into a bicyclist and then a truck, killing two people last week in northeast Mesa.

Marie Blandford, 73, of Payson, reportedly struck Clare Louis Kirby, 46, of Mesa, as she rode her bicycle in the area of Bush Highway and Usery Pass Wednesday.

Blandford left the scene and minutes later struck William Phillips, 72, in his SUV near the intersection of Ellsworth and McKellips.

Both Kirby and Phillips died on scene.

Blandford reportedly remains in stable condition at Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn.

Payson residents expressed shock upon learning Blandford was involved in the tragedy.

A neighbor, who asked to remain anonymous, said Blandford was a kind, sweet woman who was always neatly dressed.

The neighbor said she frequently saw Blandford at the mailbox and although they were not close, she knew Blandford had a stroke last year and continued to have mini-strokes.

When the person saw a picture of the car involved in the accident last week on TV, she instantly feared Blandford was involved because she drives a similar neon-green Kia Soul. Blandford had traded in her Subaru for the boxy Soul some time ago, the neighbor said.

“I know she would be devastated if she knew what she had done, knowing her,” the neighbor said.

After her stroke last year, Blandford had turned down a spot on the homeowners association board, the neighbor said. Blandford later told her she continued to have transient ischemic attacks (TIA), or mini-strokes.

Police have not said whether they think Blandford had an attack at the time or what other factors may have been involved.

A search of the Roundup’s archives revealed Blandford wrote a letter to the editor in 2011 supporting the then-manager of the local Humane Society thrift shop.

A person close to the Humane Society said Blandford was an generous financial donor.

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