CHAVES COUNTY — An Artesia woman was killed Monday in a wreck involving a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) on U.S. 285.
The New Mexico State Police (NMSP) report that two New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) pickups — with their safety lights flashing — were working around 10:30 a.m. Monday in the right-hand lane of southbound U.S. 285, near mile marker 82 north of Artesia, when, for reasons still under investigation, a southbound 2007 Peterbilt CMV pulling a tanker trailer rear-ended one of the pickups.
The pickup was driven by 58-year-old Mittie Runyan of Artesia. The impact pushed Runyan’s truck into the second NMDOT pickup, occupied by a 46-year-old NMDOT employee. Two other employees, 24- and 57-year-olds, who were working out of the back of that pickup, were able to jump into the bed as the wreck occurred.
Runyan suffered severe injuries and was airlifted from the scene to Lubbock, Texas, where she later succumbed to her injuries.
The two NMDOT employees who were working outside the trucks were transported to area hospitals for treatment. Their conditions are unknown. The driver of the second NMDOT truck was uninjured. The driver of the CMV was also uninjured and will be named if and when charges are filed.
“I’m saddened by this tragedy,” said Tim Johnson, NMSP chief. “My officers have a close working relationship with NMDOT, and our thoughts go out to the entire NMDOT family.
“NMDOT crews place their lives on the line every day while working to keep the roads in New Mexico a safe place for everyone travelling our roads.”
The NMSP urges all drivers to keep their full attention on the roadway while driving and to slow down and move over when flashing lights of any kind are seen.
The NMSP say alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in the wreck, and seatbelts were properly utilized by all drivers. The incident remains under investigation.
The NMDOT said Tuesday that it was grieving Runyan’s loss. She was hired by the department on April 3, 2000, and was placing reflectors with her Artesia-based crew on a newly resurfaced stretch of 285 when the wreck occurred.
“This painful loss will reverberate statewide,” said Transportation Secretary Mike Sandoval. “We are a close-knit group, and we all grieve when we lose one of our own. Our deepest condolences go out to Mittie’s family, who graciously shared her with us for 21 years. We are so sorry for the pain they must be going through. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.”