Safford man killed in three-vehicle early morning crash on U.S. Highway 70 at Fort Thomas

Contributed Photo: The driver of this 2019 Nissan was killed Tuesday morning when it was struck head-on by an eastbound semi-truck on Highway 70 in Fort Thomas. The passenger was airlifted to a Tucson hospital for treatment.

Vehicles land in the Family Dollar parking lot 

By Jon Johnson

FORT THOMAS – Terry Lynn Ripplinger, 68, of Safford was killed Tuesday morning when the car he was driving westbound on U.S. Highway 70 was run through by an eastbound semi-truck. Ripplinger’s wife, Mary Ann Ballard Ripplinger, 71, was initially hospitalized at Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center before being airlifted to Banner-University Medical Center Tucson for various injuries, including multiple fractures and abdominal pain. 

According to the Arizona Department of Public Safety, two Peterbilt semi trucks from Element Trucking LLC out of Gilbert were eastbound on U.S. Highway 70 at about 6:16 a.m. when they came upon Fort Thomas, where the speed limit on the highway lowers from 65 mph to 45 mph. The first semi, driven by David Wayne Pinkerton, 58, of Phoenix, began to slow, however, the second semi, driven by Aaron Wayne Thorson, 55, of Colorado Springs, Colorado, failed to slow down and struck the rear of the first semi with great force.

The second semi then veered off into the oncoming westbound lane and struck a white, 2019 Nissan Altima driven by Terry Ripplinger. The semi then rolled over onto its side along the front parking lot of the Family Dollar store and the Nissan came to rest at the store as well. Thorson was transported to MGRMC, where he was treated and released for minor injuries. He was given a citation for failure to yield to avoid an accident and for not wearing a seat belt.  

Contributed Photo: The Peterbilt semi-truck flipped onto its side after colliding with a passenger car going the opposite direction.

The first semi rolled to a stop along the shoulder without further incident and its driver, Pinkerton, was uninjured. 

The Arizona Department of Public Safety was assisted at the scene by the Graham County Sheriff’s Office, Pima and Fort Thomas Fire, Lifeline Ambulance, and the Pima Police Department. 

The highway was closed for about an hour as the damaged vehicles were removed from the scene and the fatality investigation was completed.