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Crash kills good Samaritan on U.S. 70; driver charged

Las Cruces Sun-News

DOÃ’A ANA COUNTY – A hospital administrator who stopped to render aid at a crash scene last week was killed in a chain-reaction pileup on a dimly lit portion of westbound U.S. 70.

Lorenza Nuñez, the patient-centered medical home administrator at MountainView Regional Medical Center, was driving her 2007 Chrysler sport utility vehicle into Las Cruces when she happened upon a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am stopped in the middle of the westbound left lane, its front facing oncoming traffic. The Pontiac’s lights weren’t on, creating a dangerous situation.

The Pontiac became disabled for unknown reasons about 8 p.m. near U.S. 70 mile marker 158, between the exits to Brahman Road and Holman/Dunn roads. The speed limit is 65 and lighting is sparse on that portion of the highway.

Nuñez parked her Chrysler in front of the Pontiac and turned on her emergency lights, said Timothy “T.J.” Cohee, who had been following the Pontiac and was a first responder to the initial crash.

Cohee, along with two other bystanders, had already gotten three girls inside the Pontiac to safety when Nuñez arrived.

“(She) parked in front of the disabled vehicle to give it more light and more visibility from preventing anyone from crashing into it,” Cohee recalls. “She then exited her vehicle and attempted to flag people off of her vehicle with her cellphone light.”

Cohee said that minutes earlier he tried to use his cellphone to do the same and realized it wasn’t helping to slow oncoming traffic.

“I asked her to get back in her vehicle or get on the shoulder with the rest of us, and unfortunately, she didn’t,” Cohee said.

Seconds later, a 2012 Jeep crashed into the stopped vehicles, followed by a Nissan Maxima and then a 1991 Dodge pickup pulling a horse trailer.

“The horse trailer went sideways, and she had nowhere to go,” Cohee said.

Authorities said Nuñez died at the scene. She was 51.

“It’s the community’s loss; we are very saddened,” said Ben Woods, a spokesman for MountainView, where Nuñez was employed.

The 16-year-old girl driving the Pontiac has been charged with driving while under the influence of an intoxicating drug and careless driving.

Cohee, who was riding a motorcycle, said he was about a half-mile behind the Pontiac when he saw the vehicle in distress. Cohee said he assumed one of the Pontiac’s tires blew because he saw sparks “flying everywhere.”

“From my vantage point, they did a 180 and hit the left side of the median on the left lane,” he said. “The vehicle was facing opposing traffic, and I almost hit it.”

Police said the three girls in the Pontiac and the driver of the Jeep, as well as the driver and three passengers in the Dodge were all uninjured. The driver and passenger in the Nissan and an additional passenger from the Dodge were taken to hospitals for injuries not believed to be life-threatening. The horse in the trailer was uninjured.

Crash kills good Samaritan; teen accused of DWI

EXCERPT: Woman stops to help on dark road, is hit in pileup