Aztec mourns family of 4 killed in crash on 550 near Cuba
FARMINGTON — Family and friends were still reeling Monday from the news that a retired Aztec firefighter, a former teacher and their two small children were killed in a crash late Friday evening south of Cuba on U.S. Highway 550.
Aztec residents Jimmie and Melissa Crawford and their children, Grant, 4, and Chace, 2, died in the crash, Melissa's sister, Angela Ochoa said on Monday.
A press release from the Sandoval County Sheriff's Office said the family was southbound in a Chevrolet Tahoe when a northbound Freightliner truck crossed into the southbound lane and collided with the family's vehicle.
The driver of the truck was also killed, and authorities suspect he may have been drinking.
The crash caused severe damage to both vehicles and the Crawford family was pronounced dead at the scene.
Ochoa said the couple, who were
life long residents of the area, were married in November 2011 and were a tight-knit family.
Melissa Crawford, 40, taught in the Bloomfield School District and in Farmington Municipal Schools before devoting her time to her children, including two older sons from a previous relationship.
Ochoa said her sister was also an accomplish athlete at Adams State University in Alamosa, Colo., where she earned a master's degree.
"My sister was a woman of God," Ochoa said, adding her sister recently joined a band at The Gathering church in Bloomfield.
The family was on their way to Albuquerque to watch Melissa's older sons play soccer, Ochoa said.
Wayne Lake was a friend of Jimmie Crawford for 35 years.
Lake said Jimmie Crawford retired about four years ago after serving 20 years with the Farmington Fire Department and started his career as a volunteer firefighter with Valley Fire Department in the late 1980s.
"We've always been best friends. My parents always considered him their son," Lake said.
Jimmie Crawford, 45, was an avid dirt biker and enjoyed spending time outdoors with his family, including a recent trip to Moab, Utah, Lake said.
"He's going to be beyond missed," Lake said.
On Monday, the sheriff's office released the names of the occupants in the truck that collided with the family's vehicle.
The driver and owner w
as identified as Paul Ortega, 47, of Coyote, who was also pronounced dead at the scene.
Also riding in the truck were Chimayo residents Amador Jacquez, 50, and Jacob Martinez, 26, and Gallina resident Daniel Gonzales, 35.
A preliminary investigation indicated the truck occupants were on their way home from a job in Albuquerque, the sheriff's office release states.
Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the crash and the occupants of the truck admitted to investigators they had consumed alcohol prior to the collision, the release states.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Keith Elder said the office is investigating to determine if charges could be filed.
Funeral arrangements for the Crawford family were pending.
Donations for the family can be made at Wells Fargo Bank under "Melissa & Jimmie Crawford Memorial" and the account number is 6665919343.
A GoFundMe account has also been set up under "Melissa & Jimmie Crawford Memorial."
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.