ActivePaper Archive Five die in NM 128 crash - Hobbs News Sun, 7/12/2019

Five die in NM 128 crash

Investigation closes state highway for much of Thursday, identities not yet known

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JASON FARMER/NEWS-SUN

New Mexico State Police were on the scene of a multi-vehicle head-on collision about three miles east of Jal. Five people have been confirmed to have died in the accident, according to NMSP. The accident took place around 7 a.m. Thursday and NMSP investigators had the five-mile stretch of road closed for most of the day. As of press time, the identities of the five casualties were not known by NMSP.

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JASON FARMER/NEWS-SUN

Grass along the New Mexico Highway 128 about three miles east of Jal shows burn marks following a fiery head-on vehicle collision. First responders including NM State Police, Jal Police, Lea County Sheriff’s Office and Jal fire were on scene.

Five people died in a head-on vehicle collision on N.M. Highway 128, shutting down the highway about three miles east of Jal on Thursday.

As of Thursday evening, officials were unsure if there could be more fatalities as they continue to investigate the charred crash scene.

“ ... at about 7 a.m. the New Mexico State Police along with Lea County Sheriff’s Office, Jal Police Department and area first responders were called to New Mexico State Road 128 around mile post 57 near Jal for a vehicle collision involving a crew cab pickup truck and a semi-tractor trailer,” a NMSP release stated Thursday.

Several Jal officials told the News-Sun at the moment of impact a large explosion took place burning both vehicles. Around 7:58 a.m., the Lea County Sheriff’s Office posted on social media that deputies were en route to the accident and that both vehicles were engulfed in flames.

The accident took place about 250 yards east of mile marker 56. Around 8:41 a.m. NMSP said its officers were on scene and investigating a crash involving multiple fatalities and that NM 128 was closed from milepost 55-59. All east bound traffic was diverted to Willis Road and all west bound traffic was diverted to Dollar Hide Road.

Three tanker trucks were pulled over to the side of the eastbound lane near mile marker 56. As of 1:15 p.m., an unidentified driver of one of the three trucks told the News-Sun they had been parked at the scene for nearly four hours. On scene were five NMSP vehicles, one Lea County Sheriff’s vehicle, three unmarked vehicles, one Jal police vehicle and two fire trucks.

Jal City Manager Matt White told the News-Sun it’s one of the worse oilfield-related accidents in recent memory.

“It’s pretty bad because there are so many casualties,” White said.

The Jal Police Department and Lea County Sheriff’s Office assisted NMSP on the scene. According to a Jal official on the scene, as of 3 p.m. Thursday NMSP officials were still investigating the scene and there were no plans as to when removal of the vehicles or any debris would take place.

The investigation included the use of a drone, which flew over the crash site.

New Mexico State Police Public Information Officer Ray Wilson said no identities on the five casualties have been confirmed.

“We do not yet have identities on the deceased or know if there are additional victims,” Wilson stated Thursday around 4:17 p.m. “The investigation continues.”