Injured parties flown to hospitals after head-on collision at Hot Well Dunes

By Jon Johnson

HOT WELL DUNES – A head-on collision between two Polaris side-by-side UTV’s at the Hot Well Dunes Recreation Area resulted in two people being flown from the scene while two other passengers were removed by ground ambulance. 

The collision happened the evening of Friday, Oct. 11, but the Graham County Sheriff’s Office report was just recently released. 

According to the report, multiple deputies and other first responders were dispatched to the sand dunes off Haekel Road roughly 32 miles southeast of Safford at about 10:57 p.m. regarding a collision between a 2017 Polaris UTV and a 2019 Polaris UTV. The area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

The 2017 Polaris was driven by Kyle Sanders, 19, who suffered a major leg injury among other injuries. He and his passenger, Sarena Alaniz, 18, were flown from the scene by helicopter to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center. Alaniz stayed at MGRMC for treatment, while Sanders was then flown to Banner – University Medical Center Tucson for further treatment for a broken leg and more, according to the reports. 

The driver of the 2019 Polaris, Garrett Burress, 22, was uninjured, however, two of his passengers, Kennedy Lopez, 19, and Malloreigh Sweet, 20, were taken by to MGRMC and treated for minor injuries. Burress’ two other passengers, Michelle Sweet, 18, and John Warner Mattice, 22, did not report any injuries.  

According to the various parties, the 2017 Polaris was headed up a large sand dune and the 2019 Polaris crested the same dune and started to come down on the same line. The two operators didn’t see each other until it was too late and they collided. Deputies reported there were no signs of impairment from either driver and no citations were given. 

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