Good Samaritans and paramedics helped San Juan County Sheriff's Office deputies pull a mother and daughter from car that was submerged in an irrigation ditch near Aztec


AZTEC — Police, paramedics and Good Samaritans on Thursday morning rescued two women from a submerged vehicle near Aztec.

The women — an 80-year-old mother and her 47-year-old daughter — were transported to San Juan Regional Medical Center to be treated for minor injuries. The mother was the driver of the vehicle. She was resuscitated at the scene by a lieutenant from the San Juan County Sheriff's Office with help from a hospital paramedic.

Detective Sgt. Candice Montoya said she was headed east on N.M. Highway 516 near County Road 3125 when a dump truck ran a small passenger car off the road.

The car drove off the roadway and landed in an irrigation ditch. Montoya said she jumped in after it and called dispatch at 10:03 a.m. to ask for assistance.

The sergeant said she smashed in a back window with a river rock but was unable to pull the women from the vehicle. She said both the mother and daughter were wearing seat belts, and the weight of the water made them heavy.

"(The mother's) head went under water," Montoya said. "I did everything I could to get her out of it."

Sheriff's lieutenants Alan Jamison and David Pixton, as well as Sgt. Scott Facka and deputy Todd Mangan, responded from the sheriff's office headquarters, located about a mile away.

San Juan Regional Medical Center paramedics and three other drivers — Cidro Tom, Jon March and Tony Waupekenay — also assisted in the rescue.

Paramedic Jon Butler said in an interview Thursday evening that he swam through the vehicle's broken rear window after he arrived at the scene.

"I saw the patient was underwater with her seat belt on," Butler said. "She was unconscious, not breathing. I didn't feel a pulse."

Butler said he pulled the woman's seat belt off and held her head above the water.

Meanwhile, the vehicle was rolling in the churning waters, but deputies and the Good Samaritans were able to lift it and turn it back onto its wheels.

Butler said he and a deputy were then able to float the mother's body out of the vehicle through the rear window. The daughter was able to exit the vehicle through the passenger side, according to Butler.

"I felt like it was forever, but it was probably two minutes," Jamison said of the rescue. "Between two and five minutes."

Pixton began chest compression on the mother after she was out of the vehicle, and she was revived at the scene, according to Montoya.

"I'm just relieved that we were able to get them out of the vehicle," Montoya said.

Detective Lt. Kyle Lincoln said Aztec police stopped the dump truck, which was a New Mexico Department of Transportation vehicle, near Aztec, and the driver was cited for allegedly changing lanes improperly.

Lincoln said it appeared the driver did not know that he ran the passenger car off the road.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644. 

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