CLIFTON — Alcohol was reportedly involved in a one-vehicle crash in which two men were killed around 4 a.m. Sunday morning. The wreck occurred just south of Three-Way Junction, on State Route 75.
Brian Lee Baker, 21, of Clifton, and Marty Ray Tsinnie, 27, of Tuba City, died at the scene. Two passengers in the back seat of the car were injured. None of the vehicle’s occupants were wearing seat belts.
Brent Lee Begay, 21, of Tuba City, was taken by Greenlee County Ambulance to Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center, in Safford, where he was treated and released. Brandon John Rope, 25, of Morenci, was flown from the scene by Air Evac 21 helicopter to University Medical Center in Tucson. He was reportedly treated and released from UMC.
Baker and Rope both attended and graduated from Morenci High School.
The vehicle, a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt coupe driven by Baker, was southbound when it approached a curve near milepost 398. The Cobalt plunged 100-150 feet into a deep canyon and rolled several times before coming to rest on its wheels. Baker was partially ejected through a side window. Tsinnie was ejected and thrown about 10 feet from the vehicle.
Because of the steepness and depth of the canyon, it was impossible to see the crashed vehicle from the roadway, according to Department of Public Safety Sgt. Dan Long. He assisted DPS officer Shaun Enrico with the crash investigation. Long said that due to the nature of the crash it was not possible to determine if speed was also a factor.
Long said Begay used his cell phone to call Greenlee County’s 911 to report the wreck, however he did not know where he was. The crash’s location and the fact it was still fairly dark made it difficult for Greenlee County Sheriff’s deputies, who were the first responders, to find the crash.
Sheriff’s officer Raymond “Buddy” Price, who was traveling from his home in Duncan, was the first to locate the wreck, Long said.
The Morenci Emergency Rescue Response Team assisted in removing Baker’s and Tsinnie’s bodies from the steep terrain to an area in which they could be removed from the crash site. The bodies were transported from the scene by Caldwell Funeral Home after it received permission to do so from the Greenlee County Medical Examiner.
The bodies will be transported to the Pima County Medical Examiner’s office where autopsies will be performed.
Long said the investigation, including interviews with the two survivors, revealed that all four occupants of the vehicle had been drinking at a bar in Safford prior to their return to Greenlee County.