SRP employee: “We survived because of seat belts”
SRP Customer Service Representative Jessie Garcia-Ruiz has a special reason for making seat belts her safety commitment. It’s a practice reinforced as part of SRP’s work culture, tested by extreme circumstances July 1. Read her story in her own words.
Mid-morning we were cruising on a fairly flat stretch of road between Show Low and Pinetop on State Route 260. It was the first time I’d seen this part of Arizona and I was enjoying the cooler weather and scenery. The Jeep had undergone a complete maintenance check recently and was running well.
We heard a sound like we were driving over a graded road in a construction zone. As the actual road was smooth, Joe slowed the vehicle to listen and troubleshoot. Then we heard a loud pop, followed by a bang under the vehicle’s chassis. The Jeep pulled sharply to the right as Joe struggled to maintain control.
To avoid traffic, he pulled off on the shoulder which was on a downgrade. The car destabilized and we went into a 360-degree spin followed by a triple rollover. We eventually came to rest upside down with the engine still running. The rear end and passenger side of the vehicle were crushed.
My right arm was extended up over my head, with the Jeep crumpled around me. My right leg was pinned to the seat by the wreckage. Glass shards bloodied my right forearm and knee.
The air bags had not deployed, so I was able to unlock Joe’s seat belt with my left hand. Good Samaritans who had stopped to help us pulled him out through the driver’s side window.
Emergency personnel arrived soon after and extracted me through the front window — first covering me with a blanket to prevent further scratching and abrasions from glass and metal.
Joe and I were taken to the regional medical center in Show Low. After treatment and examination, we were released later that day. Our guardian angels had put in overtime, as we escaped with only minor injuries — bumps, bruises, and stiff and sore joints.
The Jeep was a total loss. A blown left rear tire caused the accident, and the force of the explosion blew the wheel off the axle. The tire tread was peeled back in one entire piece like a banana.
Because we used properly fitting seat belts, including a lap belt and shoulder harness, we survived. I will be able to celebrate a very important milestone with family and friends later this year — the marriage of my only son Jordan and his fiancée, Elizabeth.
My safety message to all: Always buckle up before you start the engine, even if you’re moving the car down the road. Your life and those around you are worth the extra effort.”