New Mexico State Police said an Artesia woman employed by the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) died during a traffic crash Dec. 6 on U.S. Highway 285 near Artesia.
Mittie Runyan, 58, was airlifted to a Lubbock hospital with severe injuries.
Runyan was driving a NMDOT which was struck by a semi-trailer forcing her vehicle into the back of another NMDOT vehicle on U.S. 285 near mile marker 82 north of Artesia around 10:30 a.m., read a State Police news release. Both vehicles were at a work site.
“She and her maintenance crew based in Artesia were placing reflectors on a newly resurfaced stretch of road when the crash occurred,” said NMDOT spokesperson Marisa Maez.
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According to State Police, the tractor-trailer was driven by an 45-year-old man. His name was not released to the media and investigators had yet to determine what caused him to strike Runyan’s vehicle.
Maez said Runyan’s safety lights were flashing when her vehicle was struck from behind by the tractor-trailer.
“New Mexico’s Move Over Law states, when approaching emergency vehicles with flashing lights to change lanes or slow down. This allows for a degree of separation between moving vehicles and emergency responders or disabled motorist,” she said.
The second NMDOT vehicle was driven by a 46-year-old man. He was not injured. His name was not released to the media.
Two other NMDOT employees avoided injury after jumping out of the back of the third vehicle, per the news release.
Both were taken to area hospital’s for treatment.
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“I’m saddened by this tragedy. My officers have a close working relationship with NMDOT, and our thoughts go out to the entire NMDOT family,” said New Mexico State Police Chief Tim Johnson.
“NMDOT crews place their lives on the line every day while working to keep the roads in New Mexico a safe place for everyone traveling our roads.”
DOT Secretary Mike Sandoval said the loss impacted DOT employees across New Mexico.
“We are a close-knit group, and we all grieve when we lose one of our own. Our deepest condolences go out to Mittie’s family who graciously shared her with us for 21 years. We are so sorry for the pain they must be going through. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all,” he said.
Alcohol is not believed to have been a factor in this crash and seatbelts were properly worn by all drivers.
The incident remained under investigation by the New Mexico State Police with assistance from the New Mexico State Police Crash Reconstruction Unit and Drone Team, per the release.
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Mike Smith can be reached at 575-628-5546 or by email at [email protected] or @ArgusMichae on Twitter.