Four die in area auto accidents

David Irvin

Three Quay county residents died as a result of vehicle crashes over the last five days
Around midnight Sunday Tucumcari youth Dathan Garcia, 17, died just outside Portales. In a second accident Monday outside St. Vrain, Russell Dwain Downey, 48, and his son, Levi Downey, 19, both of House, died as a result of a two pickup accident, police said.

In the Sunday accident one other teenager died, and three others were seriously injured as they drove through an open field at a high rate of speed offiials said.
A New Mexico State Police news release said the pickup in which the teens were traveling crossed Roosevelt Road 20, became airborne and struck a three-foot dirt embankment on the south side of the road. The step-father of one of the victims said he was told the teens may have been chasing a rabbit or a coyote through the field.

Besides Garcia, Aaron La Rue of Dora was also killed.
The driver of the truck, Travis Belcher, 17, was transported to Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock where he was in fair condition on Sunday night, officials said. Passenger Joni Brakebill, 17, was transported to Clovis’ Plains Regional Medical Center in stable condition and passenger Layton Belcher was in critical condition Sunday night at Covenant.
Officials said LaRue and one other teen were in the bed of the truck when the accident occurred. State police said they were notified of the accident at 12:04 a.m.

A state police news release said alcohol may have been involved in the accident. Don Morgan, LaRue’s step-father, said a relative was on the scene as part of an emergency response to the accident. Morgan said the relative confirmed there was alcohol at the scene, but officials had not determined if anyone in the pickup had been drinking.
“All we know is that there was alcohol in the vehicle,” Morgan said. “We don’t know who had what. We don’t know if anyone was impaired.”

Morgan said another truck was in the area, but he wasn’t sure where it was when the accident happened. LaRue, a Dora High School student, died at the scene and Garcia died at Roosevelt General Hospital, the state police news release said.

Friends and teachers of Garcia said he was a spectacular athlete and competitor on the football field, basketball court and in the rodeo arena.
“If it was rodeo or football or basketball, he wanted to win and he was one of those kids who would lead and the other kids would follow him,” said Billy Burns, football and basketball coach at Logan schools, where Garcia was a student. “He was well known, well respected. He had an ability to make people laugh, and he had an infectious laugh.” Jerry Franklin, an agriculture teacher at Logan and sponsor of the Logan chapter of Future Farmers of America, agreed Garcia was a good leader. “He was a young man who really enjoyed life and always had a grin,” Franklin said. “He always made your classroom a little bit brighter. He will really be missed in our school and our ag program.”

Two pickup trucks collided head-on Monday morning near Saint Vrain on U.S. 60/84, leaving the two Downeys dead and sending two others to the hospital with serious injuries, according to a press release from the New Mexico State Police.

The driver of the westbound vehicle, Gary D. Massey, 49, of Portales, was taken to Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock and was in stable and satisfactory condition Monday following surgery, according to hospital officials. The driver of the eastbound vehicle, Susan Downey, 45, of House, was also taken to Covenant, where she remains in critical condition hospital officials said.

Susan Downey’s vehicle was following a tractor-trailer when a wheel fell off the tractor-trailer and struck Massey’s vehicle, according to the police report. Massey’s vehicle veered into Downey’s lane, according to the police report.
State police officials said the tractor-trailer and driver had been located in Roosevelt County, and the investigation is continuing. State police would not indicate why they were looking for the driver of the tractor-trailer.
Family friend Bill Runyan said he had known Russell Dwain Downey for many years, and Levi Downey had worked for him on his farm.

“Dwain was always ready and willing when you need something done,” Runyan said. “He always had a funny story to tell. He liked to tell jokes.”
Runyan said his friend would perform a magic comedy act to entertain friends and family.
“He had a little bag put together full of funny things,” he said. “(It was) goofy stuff that would make people laugh.”
Levi Downey graduated as valedictorian of House High School and was a member of Future Farmers of America. He had returned Sunday night from Louisville, Ky., where he received an award.

“In order to do his duties, he would make visits to every FFA chapter in the state,” Runyan said. “He was quite the popular young man.” Dwain Downey’s aunt, Jo Hughes, remembered her nephew as a friendly man who never met a stranger. “He always had a joke,” she said. “He just always was friendly. He had a way about him that he could really talk to other people.”