When Mayer School Board member and Department of Public Safety Officer Jeremy Barr encountered his second wrong-way driver in four months on Interstate 17, he was determined to succeed in stopping her.
Barr was the officer who, on May 25, was responding to a call near New River when he encountered a wrong-way driver north of Black Canyon City.
Barr said he swerved at the 77-year-old Black Canyon City woman to stop her, but was only able to clip her mirrors as she continued northbound. Minutes later, she collided with three southbound vehicles, killing herself and a 29-year-old woman in another vehicle. A third person was air-evaced with life-threatening injuries.
At 5 a.m. on Labor Day, Barr checked in for his shift and headed southbound on I-17. Immediately, he received a call about a wrong-way driver traveling south in the northbound lane, just six miles away, near Cordes Junction.
Barr turned around, headed north, and, with his emergency lights on, straddled the center line to hold traffic behind him at about 50 mph. Seconds later, the wrong-way car appeared, two headlights in the dark, traveling at what Barr estimates to be more than 70 mph.
Barr admits he felt some fear.
"It's unnerving to have headlights come at you in the dark. But I knew with the traffic behind me, if she didn't stop, she was going to kill someone else," he said.
Barr angled his police Crown Victoria to hit the woman's 2008 Ford Focus on the front driver's side wheel, forcing her into the median.
"That stopped it right there," he said. Neither Barr, nor the driver, Marilyn Vaughn of Phoenix, were injured in the collision.
Vaughn was arrested and taken to the Yavapai County Jail in Camp Verde on felony charges of DUI alcohol, aggravated assault, criminal damage, and five counts of endangerment.
Mayer Fire Chief Glenn Brown said his crews responded on the Black Canyon City wrong-way accident four months prior. He had a lot of praise for Barr for stopping the driver on Labor Day.
"We call those career calls," Brown said. "Because he did what he did on Monday, nobody died."
Barr is modest about his lifesaving effort.
"I was just trying to do what I can do. The timing was perfect. She walked away and went to jail, and I walked away, and the car will be fixed eventually," he said.