Traffic Tragedy Barely Averted

A father and son say they are lucky to be alive after an out-of-control driver nearly struck them in a Highway 87 roundabout in the heart of Payson Monday afternoon.

A father and son say they are lucky to be alive after an out-of-control driver nearly struck them in a Highway 87 roundabout in the heart of Payson Monday afternoon. Photo by Alexis Bechman. |

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A father and son say they are lucky to be alive after an out-of-control driver nearly struck them in a Highway 87 roundabout in the heart of Payson Monday afternoon.

Les and Joe Prest were driving to The Home Depot about 2:30 p.m., heading through the roundabout at Highway 87 and Airport Road, when a small gold passenger vehicle flew past them, knocking down a sign and plowing through the median. The vehicle left a debris field of gravel, mangled sign posts, vehicle parts and fluids across the intersection.

Rescuers loaded the driver, Ronald Dean Simmons, 54, of Payson, into an ambulance and airlifted him to a Valley hospital. No one else was in the vehicle or injured, said Police Chief Don Engler.

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A 54-year-old Payson man crashed at high speed into the roundabout near Fletcher’s Monday.

On the scene, Simmons made no movement or sound as paramedics loaded him into the ambulance, but officials say his injuries are not life threatening.

Several groups of people stood around the roundabout, including town officials, witnesses and Simmons’ son and wife, who wept on a fire official’s shoulder.

The Prests stood nearby, visibly shaken from their narrow escape.

“I saw him out of the corner of my eye go up over the curb and hit the posts. It looks like he spun around,” Joe said.

Joe, who was driving, said if he had turned west toward Fletcher’s, they would have surely been hit.

“If we had turned left he would have plowed right into us,” Joe said.

“You think about life — we could be dead right now,” Les said.

Joe said it appeared that Simmons was going about 50 mph and had tried to turn at the last second. Les said the roundabout needs better signage, adding he has almost been hit a dozen times.

Engler said the cause of the accident is still under investigation.

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