Around 1:30 p.m. Saturday a small sport utility vehicle pulling a 12-foot U-Haul trailer swerved off I-40 from the westbound lanes near the 348 mile marker about 16 miles east of Tucumcari.
According to Officer Steve Chacon of the New Mexico State Police, a male passenger was ejected from the vehicle and died instantly. The female driver and her 23-month-old son were treated for bruises and cuts at Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital and released Saturday afternoon. “The vehicle and trailer slid down a deep embankment south of the roadway,” said Chacon. “At one point the vehicle and trailer became airborne then rolled twice down the embankment. The trailer came to a rest upside down about 15 feet from the 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor which landed upright.”
The man, Franklin L. Williams, 28, was pronounced dead at the scene by investigator Jack Hendrickson of the Quay County Office of Medical Investigation. Officer Chacon was one of the first responders to the accident. He said Franklin, driver Kamia L. Kinchlow and her son Jireh were on their way to California from Arkansas when the U-Haul trailer fishtailed. “She said she was coming down the hill when the trailer began to fishtail,” said Chacon. “She applied the brakes, and it appeared that the trailer began to take control of the vehicle. The weight of the trailer began to push the vehicle into a broadside slide. The woman was wearing her seat belt and her son was in a child safety seat, but apparently the man was not wearing his seat belt and he was ejected from the vehicle on the way down the embankment.”
Chacon said the woman, 25, was obviously distraught.
“She kept saying, ‘Oh God. I didn’t mean for this to happen.’ We told her that it was an accident and accidents do happen. The male passenger was apparently a college friend of hers. She became a little hysterical when she was notified that her friend was deceased.”
Chacon said a truck driver behind the woman’s vehicle witnessed the trailer beginning to fishtail and saw the vehicle and trailer leave the roadway. The truck driver immediately notified state police. Chacon said the woman reported that she was traveling at 65 m.p.h. down the steep hill past mile marker 348. Investigators said there was no evidence that drugs or alcohol played a role in the accident.
“I think there should be some kind of warning sign at the top of that hill warning drivers to use extreme caution,” said Chacon. “I worked a similar accident in January 2003 right around the same spot as this accident.” Chacon said that the 12-foot trailer may have been a little large for the Mitsubishi Endeavor to be pulling.