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Bad week gets worse at Santa Fe mobile home park

March 31, 2019 GMT

Joshua Carmona, his wife and four children have been without running water for a week. Now they are without a home.

Late Thursday, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office says, a white Chevy pickup fleeing deputies plowed into the Carmonas’ home at the Lone Star Mobile Home Park on Agua Fría Road. The front of the home, which abuts the roadway, was completely destroyed while Carmona and his family were inside.

Carmona said he was sitting on his living room couch when the truck crashed into the side of the mobile home, shearing off a wall all the way to a bedroom where his four children — ages 12, 9, 6 and 5 — were asleep. All escaped serious injury, Carmona said, though he brought the children to a hospital Friday to make sure they were OK.

The crash was terrifying, he said. “I was more concerned for my kids.”

Miguel Garcia, 19, of Santa Fe, the accused driver, was booked in the Santa Fe County jail after receiving treatment at a local hospital. He is facing charges of aggravated fleeing of a law enforcement officer, aggravated drunken driving, reckless driving, leaving the scene of a crash, driving with a suspended license and driving without insurance.

The incident came after The New Mexican reported that nearly three dozen families at Lone Star had been without water since March 22, when a storage tank for a private well system that serves the park had burst. Mobile home park owner David Schmitt said he had been working all week to get a bid on a new 3,000-gallon water tank that he could afford, and he planned to install it Friday.

Then the crash happened, prompting a shutoff of residents’ natural gas service as a precaution.

New Mexico Gas Co. spokesman Tim Korte said Friday the pickup had struck a natural gas meter. The gas company repaired the leak and shut off gas service. A privately hired plumber was at the site Friday evening to fix the gas meter, and as soon as a state inspector could certify it was safe, New Mexico Gas Co. would set the meter and restore gas service, Korte said.

Santa Fe County Sheriff Adan Mendoza, concerned about an upcoming cold snap, had Spanish-speaking deputies go to the mobile home park Friday evening to tell residents that blankets and water would be provided by the Red Cross at the nearby Nancy Rodriguez Community Center, sheriff’s spokesman Juan Ríos said.

The New Mexico Environment Department, which is overseeing the restoration of water service to the mobile home community, did not return a call Friday to comment on the situation. It was unclear if Schmitt was able to get the tank installed and water flowing again.

The Carmonas — who have lived at Lone Star for three years — were trying to salvage possessions from their home Friday but had no idea where they would go.

“We stayed with the neighbors last night,” Carmona said. “I don’t know about tonight. No home.”

Immediately after the truck plowed into his home, he said, he could see the driver inside, and the truck was still running.

Deputies arrived quickly and arrested Garcia, he said, and neighbors brought the family sweaters to help them keep warm.

According to a criminal complaint that the sheriff’s office filed Friday in the Santa Fe County Magistrate Court, deputies in the area of Agua Fría and South Meadows roads saw a white Chevy pickup swerve into their lane just after 11 p.m., nearly hitting their patrol car and another vehicle. The deputies turned and followed the pickup, which ran a red light and continued east on Agua Fría, the complaint says.

The Chevy then hit another pickup heading in the opposite direction, went off the roadway and struck the mobile home, according to the complaint.

Garcia had to be extricated from the truck because it was covered with debris from the home; he was taken to a hospital, according to the complaint. The document says Garcia admitted to deputies that he had consumed “three or four” beers before getting behind the wheel.

By residents’ accounts, the Lone Star Mobile Home Park has always been a quiet, peaceful place.

Schmitt said he and his family have owned and managed it since the early 1970s.

“I don’t know what the hell’s happening over here,” he said Friday morning, shaking his head, as he waited for the new water tank to arrive.

In the last year, he said, he has replaced water pumps and cut down trees to make way for electrical lines. “It’s been expense after expense after expense.”

Schmitt said the he hoped Carmona would be able to buy a new home.

“I feel for the guy,” he said.