Another holiday, another tragedy
The history of motor vehicle accidents in New Mexico is often tragically threaded through with tales of drunk driving, wrong-way interchange access and death. One doesn’t have to dig through news archives for very long in order to come up with repeated horror stories confirming those propensities.
On Christmas Eve, 1992, Gordon House killed Melanie Cravens and her three young children—Kandyce, Erin and Kacee—while driving the wrong way on I-40 near the edge of town. His blood alcohol level at the time was .18. In September, Angel Romero killed himself and Nicalette Baca in the middle of town, on I-25, after allegedly consuming an intoxicating amount of liquor and speeding up the expressway in the wrong direction, colliding with Baca’s vehicle during the early morning hours.
The familiar tragedy struck again early last Sunday morning in Albuquerque when an allegedly drunk Jacob Jaramillo ran a red light on the I-25 frontage road and slammed into a car carrying 27-year-old Roberto Mendez, 23-year-old Sergio Mendez-Aguirre and 20-year-old Grace Sinfield. All three were pronounced dead at the scene; Jaramillo was booked on felony charges related to the collision.
Even after substantial legislative attempts to control the problem, New Mexico still ranks as number one in the nation in alcohol-related traffic fatalities, a ranking it held at the time of House’s transgression more than 20 years ago and today.
A winning season after all
The last time the University of New Mexico Lobos had a winning football season, George Bush was still in the white house. Eight years later the Lobos ended their regular season with a hard-fought, decisive win over Mountain West Conference powerhouse Air Force.
Likely to go to post-season play at the upcoming New Mexico Bowl, the 7-5 Lobos (who went 4-8 last year) dispatched their last opponents through a combination of tenacity, the slow response of Air Force to the Lobo’s offensive plan for the night and sheer luck.
The local college football squad seemed a juggernaut in the game’s first half, scoring 31 points on the strength a ground game featuring talent like running backs Jhurell Pressley and Richard McQuarley. Senior Pressley went up the middle twice—once from 57 yards out and again from 75 yards out—for two touchdowns while #3 McQuarley added to the score with a 45 yard TD with minutes remaining in the second quarter.
The second half was a different story; the score went back and forth as Air Force repeatedly threatened and sometimes controlled the game. The Falcons’ Timothy McVey was responsible for much of the Falcons efforts (he scored all five Falcon touchdowns, three in the second half ), but the Lobo defense held on, limiting the Air Force Falcons to just 222 rushing yards. The score tipped to and from the Lobo’s advantage in the fourth quarter. The Falcons came within 6 points of leading with minutes to go, but the lucky recovery of an on side kick near the end of play led to a game-winning score for the Lobos and coach Bob Davie, who now await word on the next step in the process of successfully rebuilding the program.
Air Force to be sued for fuel leak
Local residents, some legislators and at least one environmental watchdog organization are disappointed with the slow response of the feds and the NM Environmental Department towards clean-up efforts involving an underground fuel plume that threatens water users in southeast Albuquerque. The plume is about 7000 feet long and 1250 feet wide, according to base officials.
The activists, including State Senators Cisco McSorley and Mimi Stewart, are moving forward with a lawsuit against the Air Force, the organization in charge of managing the spill, in hopes of forcing a faster environmental remediation process. Unless the project is undertaken immediately, say representatives of the organizations represented in the lawsuit, the water supply in Albuquerque is at risk.
Members of the Southwest Organizing Project, the main party to the lawsuit, say that the Air Force has been unaccountable, allowing delays and missed deadlines to dominate the project. More time has been focused on research instead of actual clean-up procedures, according to those pursuing legal intervention in the process.
State Environment Secretary Ryan Flynn disagrees and has pointed out to the media the efficacy and progress of current efforts. 190 monitoring wells are currently being used to study the spill.
The plume of jet fuel—caused by an on-base leak that had its beginnings between the 1950s and the 1970s at a Kirtland Air Force Base re-fueling depot—amounts to between 6 and 24 million gallons of high octane gasoline disbursed through the rock sub-strata near existing municipal wells that feed on a massive aquifer deeper in the Earth.
While Air Force scientists maintain the plume is moving in a northerly direction and will miss wells positioned in its otherwise projected path, it admits that efforts to contain and/or remove the massive collection of petro-chemicals (which include the carcinogen ethylene dibromide, which can be toxic at levels much lower than EPA standards permit) may take more time and money than initially projected. Original estimates priced the clean-up at $100 million; the Air Force now says that $125 million more may be required.