DOÑA ANA COUNTY LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION INTO FATAL ACCIDENT

DOÑA ANA COUNTY LAUNCHES INVESTIGATION INTO FATAL ACCIDENT

Doña Ana County Manager Brian D. Haines and Doña Ana County Sheriff Todd Garrison have jointly launched a formal internal investigation in relation to a fatal crash that occurred Wednesday, April 25, in Anthony, N.M.

Doña Ana County’s elected officials, administration and staff send our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of the boy who was killed, as well as to the shaken community where the event occurred.

The investigation into the crash thus far indicates that neither alcohol nor speed were factors in the collision. A missing stop sign at the corner of St. Anthony and Miller roads may have been a contributing factor.

The investigation will center on how long the sign was missing and whether Doña Ana County’s Engineering Department was notified of the missing sign. A preliminary search through electronic and paper records conducted this morning shows no log entries, e-mails or other communication to the Engineering Department dating back to Jan. 1 regarding the intersection.

A spot search of other log entries shows a consistently rapid response to missing sign reports all across the county, regardless of whether the reports were generated by private residents or county staff.

In addition to the internal investigation, Doña Ana County has retained the services of an experienced, independent investigator to examine all documented communications related to the stop sign and the intersection, regardless of whether those communications were electronic or person-to-person in nature, and regardless of whether they were generated and/or received in official or unofficial capacities by county staff, law enforcement or dispatch personnel.

The Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department is investigating whether deputies reported the sign missing to either the Doña Ana County Roads Department, the Engineering Department or the Mesilla Valley Regional Dispatch Authority. Telephone, e-mail and radio transmissions will be checked.

Sign-replacement protocols will be thoroughly studied to determine whether the notification system failed at any level.

To cooperate with the investigation, District 2 Commissioner Dolores Saldaña-Caviness – in whose district the collision occurred – has turned over her personal phone logs to the Doña Ana County Manager’s Office. The logs date back to September of 2006. Commissioner Saldaña-Caviness said she can find no entries regarding the intersection or the missing stop sign, and she has no recollection of a missing sign at that intersection having ever been reported to her. She is cooperating fully with investigators, as are staff from the appropriate departments.

Accident records from the intersection are being compiled to find whether the sign was knocked down in an accident and to determine timelines that might help determine how long the sign may have been missing. Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department investigators also will investigate whether the sign may have been intentionally removed from the intersection, in which case criminal charges could result.

More information will be released as it is discovered. At the request of the Doña Ana County Sheriff's Department, all media contact related to the crash and the investigation will be handled solely by the Doña Ana County Public Information Office.

Doña Ana County takes the safety of its residents seriously. We will leave no stone unturned as we work to determine exactly what happened and whether this tragedy could reasonably have been prevented. In the meantime, we reiterate our collective sympathy for the family of the victim, and our prayers go out to all those affected by this terrible accident.

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Reporters seeking more information or interviews may call county Public Information Director Jess Williams at (505) 525-5801.