Deputy to contest ticket in crash
September 29, 2021
A Quay County sheriff’s deputy will contest a ticket issued to him after being involved in a traffic accident earlier this month in Tucumcari that knocked the city’s only well-running ambulance out of commission and forced the city commission to buy another ambulance to replace it.
Sheriff Russell Shafer said the deputy was returned to administrative duties Wednesday after the completion of internal investigation. The deputy had been on administrative leave after the crash, pending the outcome of the internal review.
The drivers in the Sept. 13 crash were sheriff’s deputy Tyler Evan Davis, 27, and emergency medical technician Elspeth Tesu Aspelin, 27, both of Tucumcari.
Investigating Tucumcari Police Sgt. Shaun Slate wrote in his report that Davis said he was responding, with his vehicle’s lights and siren operating, to a traffic accident on Interstate 40. Davis was going east on Tucumcari Boulevard behind another sheriff’s vehicle that turned south onto First Street. Davis continued east at an estimated speed of 55 mph.
Aspelin was driving the ambulance, with its lights and sirens activated, south on First Street to a vehicle crash on I-40. She said she slowed near Tucumcari Boulevard and just before entering, the traffic-control light turned green. Aspelin estimated her speed to be no more than 30 mph.
She said she never saw the deputy’s car until it crossed in front of her. According to the report, the ambulance was three-fourths of the way through the intersection when the collision occurred.
Davis was issued a citation for failure to yield to an emergency vehicle via a court summons two days after the accident.
Shafer said in a phone interview Saturday he thought both his deputy and the ambulance driver were “50/50” to blame for the accident and noted the ambulance had crashed into the patrol car.
“I can’t put the whole blame on him,” he said.
Shafer added there was a “miscommunication” between his deputy and a dispatcher just before the accident. He said Davis was told there was an accident on I-40 and rushed to get there, when it actually was a motorist with a flat tire.
Shafer said Davis probably would undergo re-education and additional training.
The sheriff also said “friction” between his department and Tucumcari police might have led to the ticket being issued. Davis is a former Tucumcari officer.
Shafer said he likely would impose an internal change on his department in the wake of the crash — namely, deputies would be limited on Code 3 calls in Tucumcari city limits. Code 3 means a deputy has his vehicle’s siren and lights operating and can drive more than 20 mph over the posted speed limit.
He said such a change would especially apply to dispatch calls with limited information. Deputies would continue to have discretion to get to the scene of an emergency or “heinous” crimes as quickly as possible, he said.
According to online court documents, Davis is scheduled to be arraigned Oct. 1 in Tucumcari magistrate court regarding the ticket.
The city commission at its regular meeting Thursday approved the agreement with the state’s Department of Finance and Administration, which will provide $254,663 to purchase the ambulance from the Siddon-Martin Emergency Group of Albuquerque.