California couple drowns at Lake Havasu

PHOENIX — The drowning of two adults at Lake Havasu on Friday, July 21, is a sad reminder that everyone—regardless of age—should wear a life jacket when out on the water. Although Arizona requires that children 12 and younger must wear a properly fitting life jacket any time a boat is underway, everyone should wear a life jacket at all times while on the water.

The Mohave County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) reported that 41-year-old Esmeralda Gonzalez of Monrovia, Calif., jumped from a boat in an area near Crazy Horse Cove to go for a swim. She was not wearing a life jacket and began to panic in the water. Her husband, Raul Gonzalez, 44, jumped into the water to rescue her but he also was not wearing a life jacket. They were seen struggling in the water, according to the MCSO, prior to both going under and not resurfacing.

Esmeralda was pulled from the water at about 3:25 p.m. and brought to the Crazy Horse Docks where off-duty Los Angeles County deputy sheriffs administered CPR. She was pronounced dead by Lake Havasu City Fire Department personnel.

At about 3:45 p.m., Raul was located in 12 feet of water by the Lake Havasu City Police Department and the San Bernardino County, Calif., Sheriff’s Department marine units. He was transported to the Crazy Horse Docks and pronounced dead.

The MCSO reported that the accident remains under investigation and alcohol may have been a factor.

U.S. Coast Guard statistics show that drowning was the reported cause of death in 80 percent of recreational boating fatalities in 2016 and that 83 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.

“Wearing a life jacket is a critical and simple step that people can take in order to stay safe when out on the water,” said Josh Hoffman, boating safety education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “Don’t just keep life jackets onboard for everyone — take the next step and wear them.”

The Arizona Game and Fish Department recommends that watercraft operators and their passengers take a free boating safety course in Phoenix or Lake Havasu City to learn the information and tips needed to stay safe while on the water.

For more information on boating safety or to register for a hands-on or online safety course, visit

2017 fall hunt draw results now available

PHOENIX – The waiting is over for hopeful hunters who applied for a 2017 fall hunt permit-tag.

There are three ways to obtain draw results for the deer, fall turkey, fall javelina, bighorn sheep, fall bear, fall bison and pheasant seasons:

  • Sign in to your AZGFD customer portal account.
  • Visit, then click on “View Results and Bonus Points.”
  • Call (602) 942-3000 and press “2.”

A record 90 percent of all applicants applied online (131,457), compared to 10 percent who filled out a paper application (14,309).

For those who were unsuccessful in the draw process, a list of about 2,300 leftover permit-tags is posted at The department will accept applications for leftover permit-tags—by mail only—beginning Monday, July 31. Leftover permit-tags will be available for purchase on a “first come, first served” basis at all department offices beginning Monday, August 7.

All permit-tags are scheduled to be mailed by Aug. 4; all refund warrants by August 11.

Paving scheduled on Interstate 17 near McGuireville next week

Motorists traveling southbound on Interstate 17 near McGuireville should allow extra time while paving is underway on three miles of roadway. Construction is scheduled from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, July 24, through Thursday, July 27. A single-lane restriction will be in place to accommodate work between mileposts 293 and 296, located near the McGuireville Road exit.

Drivers should use caution and watch for construction personnel and equipment while paving is underway.

Schedules are subject to change based on weather and other unforeseen factors. For more information, call the ADOT Project Information Line at 855.712.8530 or email For real-time highway conditions statewide, visit ADOT’s Traveler Information Site at, follow ADOT on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 511, except while driving.

ADOT Blog: Arizona’s silver-screen highways reel in filmmakers

[Please visit the ADOT Blog to see a multimedia presentation of this article.]

Hollywood loves Arizona’s highways and picturesque landscapes.

Filmmakers have been bringing their lights, camera and action to Arizona highway locations for more than 75 years. Director John Ford sent a crew here in 1939 to shoot “Grapes of Wrath” on Route 66, and last year Michael Bay filmed scenes in Arizona for the fifth installment of the “Transformers” series.

Parts of “Transformers: The Last Knight,” which opened June 21, were filmed at Luke Air Force Base, a Valley junkyard and along Loop 303 and State Route 88. Paramount Pictures obtained a permit from the Arizona Department of Transportation to shoot its highway scenes (you can see the 303 ever so briefly at 2:14 in this preview).

“We had numerous action sequences that involved specialty vehicles, aircraft and pyrotechnics on ADOT highways,” said Denton Hanna, “Transformers” location manager.

He praised ADOT for its assistance and problem-solving while Paramount was filming in Arizona.

“I cannot overstate the importance of ADOT in the success of filming these action road scenes in Phoenix,” Denton said.

Arizona’s proximity to Hollywood, clear weather and scenic highways across a variety of terrain lure filmmakers here for big budget films, westerns, documentaries and commercials. Many of those shoots involve highway scenes that require an ADOT permit.

ADOT officials work with the Arizona Office of Film & Digital Media, to assist film and other media productions.

ADOT issues no-cost permits for filming along its highways with the understanding that film productions generate significant spending within the state.

The “Transformers” production had close to 300 people working at Arizona locations for three weeks, boosting the economy through buying meals, lodging, fuel and other ancillary spending.

ADOT’s requirements for film permits, including adequate liability insurance, safeguard the state’s investment in its highways and ensure there are no costs to taxpayers.

The agency issued 12 film permits in 2015, another 18 in 2016 and 12 already this year through this month, according to Jennifer Cannon, ADOT manager of statewide permit services.

ADOT tries to accommodate film productions even when a producer’s stunts get outlandish. One crew tethered a vehicle from a crane off the Navajo Bridge in an automobile “bungee jump.”

Every precaution was taken to prevent damage to the bridge or debris falling into the Colorado River, Cannon said.

“We don’t generally say no,” she said. “We try to figure out a way to make it happen.”

That can involve a lot of back and forth between ADOT and location managers to protect the traveling public and still get the shots filmmakers want.

ADOT is working with a filmmaker for a complicated shoot recently with multiple cameras and hundreds of extras marching along State Route 80 from Bisbee to Lowell in a historical re-enactment. Typically, the highway can only be closed for short intervals.

“Overall, we want to keep traffic and business flowing,” Cannon said.

A recent shoot south of Sedona involved short closures of SR 179 to film a bicycle rider near Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. The footage is for a pharmaceutical commercial.

Cannon ticked off a handful of car brands that have recently filmed commercials in Arizona, including one on US 93 near Hoover Dam.

Of course, big budget movie productions get the most attention when they visit the state, spending millions of dollars and hiring local workers and contractors.

Arizona’s motion picture history covers a road atlas of locations for films like “Little Miss Sunshine,” and “Kingdom” from a decade ago to “Forrest Gump” and “Three Kings” in the 1990s.

In “The Kingdom,” filmed in 2006, a stretch of the Loop 202 was a stand-in for Saudi Arabia with highway signs in Arabic temporarily posted on overpasses.

In 1994, Tom Hanks as Forrest Gump was filmed running in downtown Flagstaff. In another scene, he’s shown jogging past the giant twin arrows at the Twin Arrows Trading Post west of Winslow. He ends his epic three-year super-marathon on US 163 in Monument Valley just north of the Arizona line.

Downtown Flagstaff and other Northern Arizona highway locations were also used for location shots in “National Lampoon Vacation,” the 1983 comedy starring Chevy Chase, that featured a humorously brief visit at a Grand Canyon scenic overlook.

Route 66 and US 89 figured prominently in two counter-culture road movies. In “Easy Rider,” (1969) Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper cruise on motorcycles across Northern Arizona and the Navajo Reservation before they connect with Jack Nicholson in New Mexico.

Musicians James Taylor and Dennis Wilson of the Beach Boys hit the Arizona road in a high-performance 1955 Chevy for “Two-Lane Blacktop,” (1971) a road movie that flew under the radar gun when it was released.

Going way back to “Grapes of Wrath,” Route 66 was briefly featured in bookend scenes with the Joad family from Oklahoma entering Arizona at Lupton and leaving the state on the Old Trails Bridge in Topock.

After filming “Transformers” in Arizona last summer, Wahlberg gave a shout-out to Arizona on Instagram: “Hey Arizona. Thanks for letting us shoot T5 here. It’s been awesome. Amazing, amazing state here.”

Paving on Interstate 40 west of Williams begins Monday

WILLIAMS – To address the beating a section of Interstate 40 just west of Williams has taken over many winters, the Arizona Department of Transportation will begin reconstructing five miles of roadway in both directions on Monday, July 24.

The $34 million project, which will start with the eastbound direction between mileposts 156 and 161, will literally rebuild the roadway from the ground up, including laying a new foundation.

Drivers heading east on I-40 toward Williams and Flagstaff will cross the median on a temporary road and share lanes with westbound I-40 traffic through the project area, with one lane of travel in each direction. Drivers should slow down and budget for extra travel time.

Crews will rebuild the westbound side of the interstate next summer.

ADOT is currently repaving 12 miles of I-40 in each direction closer to Flagstaff between mileposts 179 and 191. The $13.9 million project, which is about halfway complete, includes minor bridge repairs at the Bellemont, A-1 Mountain and Riordan overpasses as well as new guardrail.

Drivers should use caution and watch for construction personnel and equipment while paving is underway.

Schedules are subject to change based on weather and other unforeseen factors. For more information, please call Coralie Cole, ADOT senior community relations officer, at 602.501.4899 or email: For real-time highway conditions statewide, visit ADOT’s Traveler Information Site at, follow ADOT on Twitter (@ArizonaDOT) or call 511, except while driving.

Diverging diamond interchange proposed for I-17 at Happy Valley Road

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Transportation is proposing a diverging diamond interchange to replace roundabouts at the Interstate 17/Happy Valley Road interchange as a way to provide efficient and safe traffic flow for a growing area of north Phoenix.

A diverging diamond interchange has one major difference from standard diamond interchanges common around Arizona: Local street traffic makes a temporary shift to the left side while crossing the freeway, allowing for direct left turns onto entrance ramps without waiting at an additional traffic signal.

In examining options, ADOT determined that a diverging diamond interchange would be better able to manage the growing volume of traffic at Happy Valley Road and reduce the amount of time drivers spend waiting at traffic signals. It also enhances safety by reducing the number of points where directions of travel conflict.

More than 80 diverging diamond interchanges have been constructed in 29 states since 2009.

ADOT’s I-17 project also will include reconstructing the I-17 interchange at Pinnacle Peak Road, still as a traditional diamond interchange but with increased traffic capacity.

ADOT will host an informational meeting about the project the evening of Tuesday, July 25, with staff members available to answer questions:

What: ADOT meeting on I-17 interchanges project
When: Tuesday, July 25, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. (formal presentation at 6:30 p.m.)
Where: Goelet A. Beuf Community Center, 3435 W. Pinnacle Peak Road, Phoenix

Building a diverging diamond interchange at Happy Valley Road also will have less of an impact on local businesses and commuters, since traffic will continue to use the existing interchange while most of the construction work is taking place. The project will replace the two roundabout intersections that have been in use at the Happy Valley Road interchange since 2001.

ADOT continuously seeks innovative approaches to enhance safety and improve traffic flow, and the diverging diamond configuration is one of the tools available as interchanges are built or upgraded. Diverging diamond interchanges also will be built at two locations along the Loop 202 South Mountain Freeway: Desert Foothills Parkway and 17th Avenue.

The updated Regional Transportation Plan managed by the Maricopa Association of Governments, the regional transportation planning agency, provides funding for a project to reconstruct the I-17 interchanges at Happy Valley and Pinnacle Peak roads, scheduled to start as soon as fall 2018.

ADOT designs and constructs Phoenix-area freeway improvement projects based on the 20-year Regional Transportation Plan approved by Maricopa County voters in 2004.

AZGFD helps rescue population of native Gila trout following Frye fire

PHOENIX – Hiking steep trails wearing full fire gear Wednesday and Thursday, and often with backpacks holding aerated buckets of fish and other gear, the rescue team salvaged fish from two populations of Gila trout from the ash-blanketed slopes of Mount Graham.

During the aftermath of the 48,000-acre Frye fire, the 13 biologists and wildlife managers from Arizona Game and Fish and Mora National Fish Hatchery transported 79 Gila trout, a rare trout species native to Arizona and New Mexico, from Ash Creek and 111 from Frye Creek in good health to the Mora National Fish Hatchery in New Mexico.

The rescue came just before monsoon season when summer rains are likely to send ash flows toxic to fish down waterways following high-density wildfires such as the Frye fire.

Gila trout, listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, are one of two native trout species in Arizona, along with the Apache trout.

“Populations restored in isolated headwaters are unfortunately vulnerable to the risk of post-fire flooding, making our salvage efforts critical,” said Tracy Stephens, AZGFD native trout and chub coordinator. “We could not have done this without the efforts of the Type-2 Incident Command Team, including USFS and BLM personnel from throughout the Southwest Region that coordinated our efforts and ensured our safety.”

In 2012, the nearly 300,000-acre Whitewater Baldy Fire – the largest fire in the history of New Mexico — burned through nearly half of the existing Gila trout streams and fish were eliminated from six of the eight streams that were within the burn area. Gila trout were evacuated from three streams following the fire, including Spruce Creek.

Those fish from Spruce Creek were transported to Ash Creek, where last week they once again were salvaged.

The South Diamond Creek lineage of Gila trout were introduced into Frye Creek beginning in 2009, and this wild population was the first to open to catch-and-release angling for Gila trout in recent Arizona history.

All Gila trout rescued last week are being held at Mora National Fish Hatchery. The fish from Frye Creek will be used to supplement the South Diamond brood stock. The fish from Ash Creek will be held at the hatchery until an alternative stream is identified, or if conditions in the creek are deemed suitable for the fish following post-monsoon evaluations.

See more information on the Gila trout.

Updated Arizona Driver License Manual now available online

PHOENIX – The Arizona Department of Transportation Motor Vehicle Division has released the updated Arizona Driver License Manual on the ADOT website. In addition to providing basic information essential to safe driving, the newest version of the manual also includes language to educate motorists on handling law enforcement traffic stops.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety, in partnership with local law enforcement agencies, created the language that outlines best practices for motorists who are pulled over.

The full details are contained in Section 7 of the manual, pages 56-57, which can be found here:

Among the major points detailed in this section are:

When observing a law enforcement vehicle with its lights on, a driver should yield to the right side of the road and stop in a safe location off the main roadway as soon as practical unless the officer directs the driver to a different location in a safe spot.
Drivers should comply with a law enforcement officer’s orders and failure to do so can result in an arrest.
Drivers should put the car in park and remain in the vehicle, and all occupants should keep their seat belts fastened. The driver should keep his or her hands on the steering wheel, wait for the officer to make contact, consider lowering the windows to help the officer see and hear inside the vehicle, turn on the interior light if it’s nighttime, and inform the officer of any weapons that may be in the vehicle.
Drivers should not reach around inside the vehicle unless informing the officer and receiving permission, nor should drivers get out of the vehicle unexpectedly or approach the officer.

For more information:

Paving scheduled on Interstate 40 near I-17 Junction Thursday, July 20

FLAGSTAFF – Motorists traveling eastbound on Interstate 40 to Flagstaff should allow extra time while paving is underway near the I-17 Junction. Construction is scheduled from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursday, July 20. A single-lane restriction will be in place to accommodate work between mileposts 195 and 197, located one mile west of Butler Avenue.

Drivers should use caution and watch for construction personnel and equipment while paving is underway.

Recent storms serve as reminder for boaters and OHV operators to use caution

PHOENIX — Monsoon season is in full swing and the Arizona Game and Fish Department warns boating and off-highway vehicle (OHV) users that weather conditions can change quickly and could be dangerous for those who aren’t prepared.
The severity of monsoon storms varies greatly from a minor dust storm to a violent thunderstorm capable of producing hail, deadly lightning and/or flash flooding.
Recent storms brought high winds, thunderstorms and rough water to the Lake Pleasant area. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office reported that deputies made multiple water rescues on July 14 and 15:
  • Two paddle boarders were rescued July 14 after being knocked into the water by a severe thunderstorm; one of them was not wearing a personal flotation device. One of the women was taken by ambulance to a local hospital and was released after treatment.
  • Also on July 14, three juveniles operating a Wave Runner personal watercraft encountered storms. One of the juveniles was rescued by a family member, while the other two were secured by Lake Patrol deputies.
  • On July 15, 10 people were pulled from the water and no one sustained significant injuries.
In addition, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office reported that there were multiple instances of property damage — four boats sunk, another beached after becoming partially submerged, and damage was incurred to numerous other boats.
“Arizona is known as a great place for outdoor recreation and activities. But whether you’re out on a boat or riding an OHV, weather is a critical factor that everyone must pay attention to,” said Josh Hoffman, Boating Safety Education coordinator for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. “If severe weather is likely or storms are appearing nearby, it’s a good time to safely get off of the water or riding trails and move indoors.”
The Arizona Game and Fish Department’s Boating and OHV Safety Education programs offer users the following tips to protect themselves and passengers during the monsoon season.
When on a boat or personal watercraft:
  • While life jackets are legally required for children 12 and younger, everyone should wear a life jacket at all times while on the water. Storms can create large waves that could knock a passenger from the boat.
  • Monitor the weather around you, and use a weather radio for updates from the National Weather Service. If storms are predicted or are building, pull your boat out of the water or consider postponing your outing.
  • Secure all gear above and below decks.
  • Keep everyone aboard away from electrical and ungrounded components, and remain as low in the boat as possible.
  • Slow down but keep enough power to maintain headway and steering.
  • Turn on your navigation lights.
  • If possible, head for the nearest shore that is safe to approach. It may be best to ride it out in open water rather than try to approach the shore in heavy wind and waves.
  • Boats should head the bow into the waves at a 45-degree angle. Personal watercrafts should head directly into the waves.
When on an OHV:
  • Always wear proper safety gear, including a helmet, eye protection, long sleeves, pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
  • Carefully seek shelter indoors as storms are developing or are nearby.
  • Never cross running water. While it may look shallow, it may be deep enough that it could push the vehicle downstream or you may get stuck in loose sediment.
  • Drive slowly to not lose control on muddied trails.
  • To avoid being struck by lightning, avoid open fields, high land, trees, poles or other tall objects and standing bodies of water.
  • Be aware of and avoid flash flood zones.
For more information on boating in Arizona, visit For more information on riding an OHV in Arizona, visit