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2nd wrong-way fatal crash on ABQ-area freeway in 24 hours


Law enforcement and Albuquerque Fire Rescue personnel at the scene of a wrong way fatal crash on Interstate 40 at San Mateo Sunday morning. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

A small white car driving the wrong direction on Interstate 40 struck an SUV, sending it rolling, before the wrong-way driver was killed when the car collided with a tractor-trailer early Sunday.

It was the second fatal crash involving a wrong-way driver on an Albuquerque-area interstate in just over 24 hours.


Police and Albuquerque Fire Rescue at the scene of a wrong way fatal crash on I-40 at San Mateo. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque Police Department spokesman, said three vehicles were involved in the crash, which happened in the westbound lanes near San Mateo at 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

A Chevy Cruze driving east first struck an SUV, which rolled several times.

The Cruze then drove into the tractor-trailer.

Police didn’t identify the driver, who was killed. Gallegos said no charges have been filed or are pending. No other injuries were reported.

He said police hadn’t determined whether alcohol was a factor in the crash.

When the sun came up Sunday, interstate traffic remained at a standstill because of the wreck. At 9 a.m., the state roads hotline was still advising drivers to seek an alternative route.


Westbound Interstate 40 traffic remained at a standstill Sunday morning after a wrong way fatal crash at San Mateo. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Albuquerque Journal)

Meanwhile, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office identified two of the three victims of the fatal crash that happened on Interstate 25 at 2 a.m. Saturday.

Brandon Barber, 29, an off-duty Cuba Police Department officer, is suspected of driving drunk and the wrong way. He has been charged with multiple counts of homicide by vehicle, aggravated DWI and an open container violation, according to court records.

Deputies say Fernando Arrellano was injured when the GMC Yukon – with Colorado plates – he was driving into Albuquerque was hit by Barber, who was driving a Ford F-150 north in I-25’s southbound lanes.

Arrellano had a brain bleed and lacerated internal organs. He remained at the University of New Mexico Hospital on Sunday evening in serious condition, said Jayme Fuller, a spokeswoman with the Sheriff’s Office.

Diego Robles Arrellano, a passenger sitting the right front seat of the SUV, died at the scene.

Fuller said the Sheriff’s Office hasn’t identified a man who was riding in the back seat who also died at the scene.

The Sheriff’s Office didn’t give the ages of the men who were killed.

Deputies wrote in a criminal complaint that at the scene of Saturday’s crash, Barber appeared confused and disorientated and smelled of alcohol. There was a large, partly empty bottle of brown liquid in his vehicle.

Barber was previously arrested on a DWI charge in Albuquerque in 2016. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a first-offender program.

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