AZGS geologists Phil Pearthree and Joe Cook were reviewing their recent geologic mapping along the upper East Verde River north of Payson, with Rich Burtell from ADWR. A construction crew was clearing sediment from the highway where a flood had occurred on a small wash draining a recently burned area. While we were there, a trackhoe involved in the operation toppled off the downslope side of the highway,throwing the operator partially out of the cockpit and pinning him between the protective cage and some boulders.
They immediately contacted 911, and the response was fairly rapid given that they were well out of town, but the operator was trapped for 30-45 min. He appeared to be near death when the emergency team decided they could risk moving the trackhoe. A large front-end loader was used to lift the trackhoe enough to extract him. By that time, there were probably 20+ emergency medical personnel and the Gila Co. Sheriff's Dept. was on the scene. They applied CPR and revived the operator, who eventually was taken out on a helicopter. Rich Burtell actually witnessed the accident and gave a statement to the sheriff deputy on the scene. Phil says a small newspaper article reports the victim survived but is still in critical condition.