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Wrongful death complaint filed in 2017 fatal crash

May 12, 2019

Survivors of four members of an Aztec family who died in a 2017 crash with a trucker on N.M. 550 have filed a wrongful death complaint against General Motors, the trucker and the state Department of Transportation.

The state highway, which has only a 6-foot-wide median for long stretches, is one of the deadliest roadways in New Mexico.

According to the complaint, the May 12, 2017, crash that claimed the lives of Jimmie Crawford and Melissa Crawford and their 2- and 4-year-old children occurred when a northbound Freightliner truck hauling a cargo trailer had a tire blowout and careened across the narrow median, striking the Crawfords’ southbound vehicle.

The complaint accuses the state of negligence, including failing to install barriers that could prevent such cross-over collisions.

The lawsuit also names General Motors as a defendant because, the suit says, the Crawfords’ 2009 Chevrolet Tahoe didn’t meet “crashworthiness” standards “and therefore failed to protect them.”

The driver of the Freightliner is named because he failed to drive with the ordinary care required to avoid such an accident, according to the suit.

General Motors did not reply to a request for comment. Attempts to find contact information for the truck driver, Paul Ortega, were unsuccessful.

In 2017, a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman told The New Mexican there had been 14 fatal crashes on U.S. 550 in New Mexico in 2015 and 2016, down from a total of 19 in the previous two years.

A spokeswoman for the department said in an email Friday there were eight fatal crashes on the highway in 2017 and 10 in 2018, though the 2018 number is still considered preliminary and subject to change.

The spokeswoman said she could not comment on the pending litigation.

The Crawford survivors seek an unspecified amount in compensatory and punitive damages.

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