One person was killed and seven evacuated by medical helicopters in a three-vehicle accident on Highway 260 west of Christopher Creek near the Boy Scout Ranch Saturday afternoon on a stretch of the highway still limited to two lanes.
The nightmarish crash scene with three people trapped in crushed vehicles and an army of paramedics, police, fire crews, ambulances and medical helicopters was one of the biggest pile-ups even veteran firefighters had ever seen.
“It was as bad as I’ve seen here,” said Hellsgate Fire Chief Gary Hatch.
The accident created a mangled barricade of metal that closed the road from approximately 4:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 29. Seven helicopters and one ambulance transported the other victims, including a child in a car seat, said Chief Rob Jarvis of the Christopher Kohl’s Fire Department.
He thought the child seat was not installed properly, but had done its job to protect the child. DPS officials said they could not say yet if the child seat was installed properly.
Police have not released the names of the victims. Hatch said he doesn’t believe any of the victims lived in Rim Country.
Hatch said it appears one vehicle crossed the center line and hit the second vehicle, killing its driver. The vehicle that crossed the center line then spun and was hit by a third vehicle.
The Department of Public Safety is conducting an investigation into the accident, so Jarvis and Hatch are not certain about exactly what happened. Both said weather and road conditions did not appear to be a factor. “All three vehicles were sitting sideways in the road, so it is hard to say which direction they were headed,” Jarvis said.
Jarvis said rescuers extracted three of the victims, as well as the driver who died.
Units from Christopher Kohl’s and Hellsgate responded with four engines; one rescue vehicle; and two command vehicles. Seven helicopters and three ambulances responded to the scene. In addition to the 13 emergency personnel at the accident from the two local fire departments, crews responded from the Gila County Sheriff’s Office, Payson Police Department, Arizona Department of Public Safety and Arizona Department of Transportation, Hatch said.
Jarvis said the carnage of trapped victims and twisted metal made it one of the worst accidents he has seen in the area.