Speed a Possible Factor in Sheriff Dever's Crash; Beer Found at Crash Site, But No Indication Dever had Been Drinking

As a resident and sheriff of a rural Arizona county, driving on dirt roads was second nature to Larry Dever.

So how did the law enforcement professional end up rolling his three-quarter-ton pickup on one?

One possibility: Excessive speed.

"That certainly is one school of thought," says Gerry Blair, spokesman for the Coconino County Sheriff's Office, adding that the investigation is ongoing.

Dever had been traveling southbound on Forest Road 109 in the Kaibab National Forest, about two miles north of White Horse Lake, on his way to a hunting and camping trip with family members. It was about 6:30 p.m. — just after sunset.

For unknown reasons, Dever lost control of his 2008 three-quarter-ton Chevrolet pickup and rolled it. A witness told authorities Dever appeared deceased immediately after the crash.

No information is readily available about whether Dever had been wearing a seat belt, Blair says.

Online maps show that in that general area, FS 109 is relatively straight. However, Blair, who was at the crash scene this afternoon, says the road goes into a "slight-to-moderate curve," and was a "bit washboardy" near where Dever lost control.

Blair wasn't sure if any speed limit applied to the road, adding that he saw no signs on his drive to the site.

As anyone with back-roads experience knows, washboards — those ridges formed on heavily used dirt roads — can cause a loss of traction.

Beer bottles and cans were strewn around the crash site, Blair says, but they appeared to have come from a cooler that had been in the bed of Dever's truck.

A deputy who investigated the crash initially didn't find or smell anything in the cab that would have indicated Dever had an open container while driving or had been drinking, he says.

A toxicology report won't be available for a while, but investigators hope to release more information about the incident in a couple of days, Blair says.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.