Jon Johnson File Photo/Gila Herald: Jace Kouts, 24, was flown to UMC in Tucson after partially severing his hand in a UTV crash early Sunday morning.
Police say alcohol may be a contributing factor in the crash
By Jon Johnson
GRAHAM COUNTY – Jace Kouts, 24, of Thatcher, rests in a hospital bed at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson (UMC) on Tuesday, not yet knowing whether surgeons have saved his left hand.
Kouts was severely injured in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 7, while operating an orange, 2014 Polaris Razor UTV.
Graham County Sheriff’s Office deputies and paramedics were dispatched at about 12:35 a.m. to High Mesa Road regarding the crash. Upon arrival, they located Kouts lying on the ground just north of Runcorn Road within the roll cage of the UTV, holding his left arm in a T-shirt as his hand was partially severed. The crash area is east of S. Barney Lane and was on private property.
According to the Sheriff’s Office report, as deputies helped lift Kouts out of the vehicle they noticed he appeared to be under the influence of alcohol with bloodshot, watery eyes, slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol permeating from him. Deputies also noticed that there were empty beer cans in and around the UTV.
Two other subjects, identified as Braden Kouts and Kyle Krutsinger, were observed next to the UTV and advised they had been passengers. They allegedly told the deputy that they were coming from Krutsinger’s residence westbound on Runcorn Road and the UTV flipped as they attempted to turn right (northbound) onto a side road. They both said the UTV was not traveling very fast at the time of the crash.
Krutsinger advised he had drunk one beer when asked by the deputy and Braden only replied that he was 18, according to the report. Both men said they did not know how much Jace had drunk that night.
Jace was transported to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center (MGRMC) by paramedics from Lifeline Ambulance and was then flown to UMC for further treatment and an attempt to surgically repair his partially severed hand.
According to a family member’s statement on social media, doctors took an artery out of Jace’s leg to reconstruct his hand but that it still may need to be amputated.
A warrant was also obtained for Jace’s blood since he declined consent for a blood draw at MGRMC, and a Tucson officer retrieved two vials of blood from UMC for DUI testing purposes. Possible charges, including DUI, are pending blood test results and review by prosecutors.
Since the crash was on private property, the passengers were allowed to flip it back onto its wheels after being photographed and have it retrieved by a friend.
In 2013, Kouts was involved in an ATV crash that seriously injured himself and his then 18-year-old passenger as well. Alcohol was believed to be a contributor then as well, and Kouts’ toxicology report listed his blood-alcohol level at .134.
He was eventually charged with two counts of aggravated assault, attempted aggravated assault, DUI, endangerment, reckless driving, and an underage alcohol violation. He then took a plea agreement and pleaded guilty to attempted aggravated assault in lieu of having all of his other charges dismissed.