Semi accident highlights need for holiday caution

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A semi crash by Lemitar blocked lanes on Interstate 25 for a time on Sunday and took all day to clean up.

Photo courtesy of Ed Sweeney: A wrecked semi sits in the Interstate 25 median Sunday near the Lemitar exit. The crash happened just after 4 a.m. when the driver lost control on the icy roads. Not long after the semi crashed, a full-size Ford van collided with the wrecked trailer, which had come to rest blocking the northbound lanes.

New Mexico State Police Sgt. Greg Valentino, who investigated the crash, said it happened just after 4 a.m. Sunday. The driver was traveling southbound with a light trailer; he was hauling 15,000 pounds of flattened boxes made to hold coffee makers. Road conditions were icy and snow packed, but traffic was light.

Valentino said according to the driver, when he went over the bridge at the Lemitar exit, the trailer started fishtailing. The truck then slid sideways down the interstate and the trailer went into the median, overturned and came to rest blocking the northbound lanes. The tractor portion was in the median by that time.

Not long after that, Valentino said a full-size Ford van came up the interstate traveling north and crashed into the semi trailer in the right lane. He said the crash was minor, and none of the people in the van were injured.

“After the van wrecked into it, that made a little bit of a mess,” Valentino said. “Pallets and boxes were strewn about.”

Valentino said police diverted northbound traffic to the Lemitar exit ramp to go around the trailer. Southbound traffic was unaffected until the tow company arrived. He explained the tow company needed both southbound lanes to get the semi turned upright, so police had to have traffic exiting the southbound lanes. He added the tow truck driver had said it turned out to be a much bigger job than he had expected.

Valentino said many agencies responded, including the Socorro County Sheriff’s Department and the county road department, which sent a loader to help clean up the mess.

“It really turned into a group effort trying to get it resolved,” Valentino said.

Valentino said the interstate was finally opened up sometime Sunday evening. There were complications as workers tried to get the trailer turned upright. He said as they tried to get it into a position it could be towed, the wheels were being pulled off. Workers had to do some repairs to the trailer before it could be towed from the area.

“It was kind of dragging on the ground,” Valentino said. “It broke in the middle.”

Socorro County Sheriff’s Department Deputy Ed Sweeney said during fishtailing, the truck trailer took out an exit sign and hit the guard rail on the bridge, which split the side of the trailer.

“It opened it up like a can opener,” Sweeney said.

Valentino said there were plenty more accidents in Socorro County over the weekend due to the slippery roads, including a couple of rollovers by San Acacia that happened after the semi accident. He said NMSP was called to nine or 10 crashes in Socorro County from Friday through Sunday.

“People need to remember to slow down when there’s not the best road conditions,” Valentino said.

He said the truck driver, even though his trailer was light and conditions were icy, was traveling around 60 or 65 mph when the accident happened. The driver was issued a citation for careless driving.

Sweeney said sheriff’s deputies responded to four wrecks on Friday night alone. He said while Deputy Amanda Vega responded to one accident scene Friday, her parked patrol unit was hit by another car traveling too fast for the icy conditions.