Collision believed to be caused by an impaired driver

Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – A two-vehicle head-on collision on Jan. 8 is believed to have been caused by an impaired driver.

According to a Safford Police report, an officer was dispatched at about 3:55 p.m. to a two-vehicle collision near the intersection of 8th Street and U.S. Highway 191.

Upon arrival, the officer located a small sedan with a single male occupant who had suffered severe leg fractures and facial injuries and a Chevy pickup truck with a single female occupant who had suffered facial and head injuries.

According to witness statements, the sedan, driven by Isaac Garcia, 23, was northbound on U.S. Highway 191 when his vehicle crossed the centerline and collided with the southbound truck, driven by Michelle Kuhn. Witnesses also reported Garcia’s sedan appeared to be driving at about 50 to 55 mph in the 35 mph-zone. A witness described Garcia’s driving as erratic and reckless.

During the course of the investigation, an officer located a Xanax pill and a THC vape pen with THC oil in it. Xanax is a prescription drug used to treat anxiety and panic disorders and THC oil is the active ingredient in marijuana that gives users a high.

Garcia allegedly admitted the items were his but said he had taken Xanax the day before and had only smoked marijuana that morning at 8 a.m. prior to driving to Tucson. He said was on his way back to his girlfriend’s house in Safford and was just tired from his trip when the collision occurred. While recreational marijuana is now legal in Arizona, users are still subject to possible DUI charges if found operating a motor vehicle while under the influence.

Paramedics at the scene treated Garcia with 100 micrograms of Fentanyl – an extremely strong opiate – for the pain caused by his leg fracture. Both drivers were taken to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center for treatment.

The officer forwarded his report to the Graham County Attorney’s Office and requested charges of DUI, DUI-drug, aggravated DUI, aggravated assault, possession of a dangerous drug (Xanax), possession of marijuana (THC oil), and possession of drug paraphernalia be filed. However, the Gila Herald believes the dangerous drug charge would likely be changed to possession of a prescription-only drug and the possession of marijuana charge would likely not be filed due to marijuana – including its concentrated THC oil form – now being legal for recreational use. To date, no formal charges have yet to be filed, according to online court records.

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