Death in Arizona City

There are many ways to die but most of us will not get to choose the way we die.  Saturday on a three-mile dusty stretch of two-lane highway between Sunland Gin Road and Arica Road in Arizona City, two people died.  One made a choice, the other did not.

It started out as just another sunny and cool January morning in Arizona.  At 8:30 AM, I dressed to go for a run up at the Casa Grande Mountains.  I was going to drive to the post office first to pick up a delivery that Alexa had told me was made.  She had also told me what the merchandise was and I was excited to get it. The post office in Arizona City is only open between 9 AM and 11 AM on Saturday and I intended to go there first to be sure that I got there before it closed.  I then wanted to go to the Health Fair that the Chamber of Commerce in Casa Grande was putting on.

The Health Fair was scheduled to start at 10 AM and end at 2 PM.  I planned to get to the fair about the time that it would start.  There are always a lot of handouts and goodies at these fairs and the earlier you get there, the more stuff you can pick up.  I thought I could squeeze a decent run in sometime between the post office and the health fair.  I had to be back home from the fair before 2 PM to pick my wife Karen and her friend Nancy up.  The three of us were going to Tucson for a Dulcimer Jam that would start at 3:30 PM.  Following the jam, we were going to have a potluck and some conversation.  Thus, I was a man with a tight schedule.

I left my house at about 8:55 AM.  I live about two miles from the Arizona City Post Office. The parking lot there was not crowded, and I immediately found a place to park.  I went in and checked my mailbox but there was no package notification in my box.  I then went to the desk and asked the clerk to check if any packages had arrived for PO BOX 2498.  She said, “No problem” and went back into the storage area.  She returned shortly.  “Sorry, she said, but there are too many packages to check and they have not been posted yet.  You will have to wait until Monday.”  I left the Post Office moderately disappointed and headed up to the Casa Grande Mountain Park by way of Sunland Gin Road.  It is about 4 miles from the Post Office to the Arica Road Trail head.  There was little traffic on the way, and I arrived at the trail head about 9:15 AM.

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I put my extra gear on, mostly some pads and armor and commenced running up a trail.  I was not sure how long I wanted to run but I figured maybe 40 minutes or so.  I run with armor because it helps when I fall.  Running these mountain trails, it is not a question of whether I will fall, it is only a question of when.  I have already hit the ground twice this year.  One was minor and no pain.  The other hurt and left me bruised.  After falling, I laid on the ground for a while and stared at the clouds drifting by before trying to stand up.  Finally, I got enough courage back and the pain had subsided enough to enable me to finish my run.  Bruised, battered and my confidence shaken but knowing that I still had a few more runs in me before I called it quits with my running; I finished my run.

However, today was different.  I started off feeling very well and with over fifteen trails to chose from, (I often add or change my route depending on how I feel) I felt strong and decided to run one of my favorite routes.  I was about fifteen minutes into the route when I heard the sirens start off in the distance.  It is not unusual to hear sirens, but these did not stop.  They went on and on for what seemed like forever.  I guessed based on the direction that they were coming from that it was an accident on Sunland Gin Road.  I had two reasons for believing this.  First, this is the major and heavily trafficked route out of Arizona City and second, speeders and impatient drivers seem to abound on this section of Sunland Gin Road.  Last year, three people were killed when a driver drifted across the lane and rammed head on into an oncoming car.  Anyone living in Arizona City has seen several near misses on this road when some driver decides to pass them with little margin for error.  It does not matter that it is only three miles long or that the speed limit is 50 mph, many drivers do 70 mph or more on this road.  I assume following anyone doing the speed limit drives some of these impatient people crazy.

I finished my run in about 37 minutes and got back to my car.  I put my gear in my car and pulled some pants on over my running tights.  I drove off at a few minutes to 10 AM.  I went down to Sunland Gin Road but did not see anything amiss as I made a left turn to the freeway.  It took me about ten minutes to arrive at the Promenade Mall where the Health Fair was being held.  I parked across the street, walked through the car show outside the Mall and into the Mall area.  There I saw the Chamber of Commerce booth where some friends were handing out tote bags.  I greeted my friends (I volunteer at the Chamber on Wednesdays for four hours) and proceeded to systematically visit any booths or tables that either interested me or had some good swag.  It was about 10:15 AM.

I stopped to chat at several booths.  I do not like to appear greedy and just grab the swag and I usually find some vendors who might be helpful to me for any number of reasons.  Nevertheless, I picked up two calendars, 2 mini-calendars, several pens, a banana, a bottle of water, a sweat band and lots of good information relating to home improvement.  I finished going up and down each aisle and double checked to make sure that I did not miss any vendors.  On my way out, I met two more friends who were vets and briefly said hello.  I ended up hitting the men’s room before getting to my car.  It was now about 11 AM.

I took the freeway back to Sunland Gin Road but decided to get off on Jimmy Kerr Blvd. which runs parallel to the freeway.  I wanted to come back to the intersection of Jimmy Kerr and Sunland Gin so that I could pass Carl’s Jr. and stop in for a breakfast burrito.  I went about two miles down Sunland Gin road and suddenly realized that Carl’s Jr. was on Toltec Road and not Sunland Gin.  Burger King was on Sunland Gin.  I decided to just go home and skip the burrito.  As I neared the top of the overpass that connects the I-10 exit to Sunland Gin, I could see in the distance many police cars and lights and it appeared that the road was blocked off.  I had time to make an immediate left turn onto I-10 before I was committed to trying to drive down Sunland Gin Road.  I doubted that going down Sunland Gin Road was possible.

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I headed south on I-10 and got off on Toltec Blvd.  I drove over to Carl’s Jr. and parked. I went in and they were no longer serving breakfast burritos since it was past 11 AM.  They did have some breakfast burgers left so I ordered one and a drink and proceeded to call my wife Karen to tell her about the accident.  It was now two hours or so later then when I had first heard the sirens and the road was still blocked.  As it turned out, the road was not opened until about nine or ten hours later.  We both surmised that a really bad accident had happened on Sunland Gin Road and (Sad to say) we both knew why and how.

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I arrived home and after some relaxing, showering, changing up and loading the instruments and food in the car we left for Tucson.  The jam went great and about 20 people were playing various instruments but mostly dulcimers.  We ate at 5:30 PM and conversation carried us to nearly 8 PM.  We packed the car up and headed back to Arizona City.  I had not thought any more about the accident until we were near our exit.  As we approached, we saw a lot of cars that were coming down Toltec Road which normally would have been coming down Sunland Gin Road.  Apparently, Sunland Gin Road was still closed.

As soon as I came home, I logged onto a Face Book chat group for Arizona City where residents bring up issues and ask questions about what is happening in the area.  Of course, the questions were about the accident and what could be done.  It seemed like everyone knew that two people had died.  Given the history of this road, it does not take a rocket scientist to surmise that two cars had hit in a head-on collision.  The only real question was how many were in each car and how many had died.

One person made a choice to pass and died.  The other person did not make a choice and died involuntarily. 

The following is an excerpt from the Arizona City Facebook chat with a typical selection of comments and questions regarding the accident:

chat group

As you might notice from these comments, the range of solutions varies widely.  Some want more policing.  Some want a passing lane.  Some want a four-lane highway.  Some want better driver education.  Some want people to smarten up and not be in such a hurry.  It is a difficult issue.  People don’t usually respond well to persuasion and people do not want their taxes to go up to pay for new roads.

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So, what will we do?  Are these deaths the cost of riding the highways?  Are we content to simply let more people die on this road?  Not very difficult to decide unless it is you or a loved one who will die.  The cost/benefit equation can change very radically when it impacts us personally.

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Vic Nurcombe
    Jan 12, 2020 @ 15:12:21

    Very evocative

    Like

    Reply

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