File Photo By Jon Corona: Mason Gann’s truck was on hand at a show last year. The Gila Valley Strong Memorial Vehicle Drive will take place Saturday, March 6, and will end at Bashas’ parking lot.
GRAHAM COUNTY – On Feb. 21, 2020, the Gila Valley was struck by the tragic deaths of three students, Mason Gann, 16, of Fort Thomas, Kade Nelson, 16, of Thatcher, and Emmett Darnell, 17, of Duncan, who were killed when an Eastern Arizona College transport van bringing them home from a day at the drag races in Phoenix rolled over on U.S. Highway 70 roughly one mile west of Pima. The van was returning to the Gila Valley with automotive class students through the Gila Institute For Technology (GIFT) program.
The Gila Valley Strong movement bought the various communities together to help heal from the tragedy, and on Saturday, March 6, starting at 10 a.m., a Memory Vehicle Drive will be held in honor of the fallen boys.
Those in Greenlee County will meet at Duncan High School at 10 a.m and will follow Brent Darnell’s family. The route will take them down U.S. Highway 70 to Thatcher and will end at the Bashas’ parking lot around 10:45 a.m.
Those in Eden and Fort Thomas will meet at Fort Thomas High School at 10 a.m. and will follow Richie Gann’s family. The route will take them down U.S. Highway 70 to Pima High School, then back onto U.S. Highway 70 into Thatcher and end at the Bashas’ parking lot at about 10:45 a.m.
Those from Pima, Safford, and Thatcher will meet at the Pima High School and will follow Jason Nelson’s family. The group will fall behind the Fort Thomas group and end at the Bashas’ parking lot.
Rules and Requests
Those participating in the drive should dress up their vehicles in school colors (red for Duncan, green for Thatcher, and blue for Pima/Fort Thomas). Please drive safely during the event and not have any exhibition of speed. Stay socially distant and wear a mask if you have to be next to anyone out of your family group. Stay in your vehicles if possible.
Those who do not want to drive can sit in their own vehicles and observe from the side of U.S. Highway 70. Owners of restored vehicles are encouraged to take place in the drive or just park their vehicles at the Bashas’ parking lot for those to see.