A truck driver was killed and a sheriff’s deputy injured in multiple wrecks east of Payson Monday afternoon.
Deputy Jeff McClure, with the Gila County Sheriff’s Office, was airlifted to the hospital after he was reportedly rear-ended while responding to a semi-truck accident on State Route 260.
The GCSO, Arizona Department of Public Safety and area firefighters were called to milepost 278 on SR 260 around 1:30 p.m. for a semi-truck that had rolled off an embankment near the Christopher Creek Loop.
Bernardo Aguiar Garcia, 38, of Miami, Fla., was reportedly heading westbound in a semi-truck when, for unknown reasons, he traveled off the north side of the highway in a downhill curve. The truck crashed through a guardrail and went 75 feet down an embankment, according to a DPS spokesperson.
Garcia, who was alone in the truck, died on scene.
McClure, who was on scene to provide assistance, was reportedly rear-ended in his patrol vehicle by Brett Cramer, 53, of Quartzsite.
McClure was airlifted to a Valley hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. He was released Wednesday.
“(He) still has a lot of pain, but (is) doing good,” said Lt. Tim Scott.
Cramer was arrested on charges of criminal damage, endangerment and aggravated assault.
Tempe resident Amy Dickey said she was heading eastbound on 260 Monday with her family when they saw Garcia’s truck headed down the hill.
“His tires were smoking and the brakes were clearly out,” she said. “We could smell the brakes as we went up the mountain for at least another 10 minutes.”
Dickey said as Garcia came around the corner toward their vehicle, his front driver side tire came off the ground.
“It is our belief that he did his best to keep his rig out of oncoming traffic. We all prayed for him,” she said. “It appears that he made a completely selfless decision to sacrifice himself and spare the lives of all of the other drivers and travelers. He is a hero. His split decision thinking deserves to be commemorated.”