Witness says westbound car strayed into oncoming traffic

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NENAHNEZAD  — Two people were killed in a fatal vehicle collision that occurred on Navajo Route 36 here this afternoon.  

Local law enforcement personnel, firefighters and paramedics were dispatched around 12:53 p.m. to mile marker 15 on Navajo Route 36 after a report of a vehicle collision, according to San Juan County Fire Chief Craig Daugherty.

Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco confirmed two people had been killed and that the Shiprock district was handling the investigation.

Four apparatuses from District 1 of the San Juan County Fire Department were dispatched to the scene, Daughtery said.

Toby Chavez witnessed part of the collision and was one of the first people on the scene.

Chavez and Eduardo "Eddy" Garcia, employees of Ram Studio Signs, were installing a billboard along Navajo Route 36 when the collision occurred.

Chavez said he saw a white passenger car traveling westbound and a white pickup truck traveling eastbound when the westbound vehicle drifted into oncoming traffic and collided with the truck. He described the white passenger car as traveling at a high rate of speed.

"It was a good thing we were there," Chavez said.

Garcia got on the phone call and called dispatch about the collision as Chavez fed him information.

Chavez found one male passenger and a female driver dead in the car. A woman was trapped in the front passenger seat of the vehicle.

Daughtery said one of the occupants had been extricated from a vehicle, but he did not have additional details.

Chavez said he approached the pickup truck, which was laying on its passenger side, and helped the male driver out of the vehicle.

Chavez kicked out the windshield, punctured the air bag and reached into the truck and cut the driver's seatbelt to get him out of the vehicle.

The male driver was the only occupant of the truck and was dragged to the side of the road by Chavez, who was worried about a fire that was burning at the scene. Chavez said the pickup truck driver had lacerations on his body, including his face.

"I wish I could have done more," Chavez said.

Chavez said it took less than 15 minutes for the first responders to arrive on the scene.

A vehicle with four women in it was trailing the truck when the incident occurred. Chavez, a pastor at Straight Up Ministry in Farmington, said the driver of that vehicle was shaken up by the collision, and he prayed with her to help calm her down.

Traffic was blocked on both sides of the wreck and was being diverted to a frontage road. The San Juan County Sheriff's Office provided traffic control on the east side of the wreck.

New Mexico State Police and the Navajo Nation Fire Department were among the agencies responding to the scene.

A medical helicopter also was dispatched to the scene.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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