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A Guadalupita man was charged with vehicular homicide after drinking and driving through a flooded road in Mora County on Sunday, killing the passenger after the truck was swept away, according to a criminal complaint.
The complaint said John G. Vasquez, 30, was arrested after he told police he “had a few beers” and attempted to cross a flooded portion of N.M. 434 at milepost 7. His truck filled with water and overturned with his passenger, 64-year-old Benjamin Torres, trapped inside. Torres was pronounced dead at the scene by the Office of the Medical Investigator.
Both men were from Guadalupita, New Mexico State Police said in a news release.
According to the release, State Police officers received a call around 2:30 p.m. about the pickup witnesses say drove around several vehicles that were stopped for flooding on the road.
A swift water rescue unit was the first to arrive on scene and, while members of the rescue team were placing a bandage on Vasquez’s arm, “he left and began to walk west upstream,” the complaint states. A member of the rescue team told responding officers he smelled a strong odor of alcohol on Vasquez before Vasquez left the scene.
While officers attempted to locate Vasquez, the rescue team continued to attempt to rescue Torres.
“At around 7:30 p.m., the waters receded, and rescue personnel gained access to the truck. The truck had been carried about 100 yards from where it entered the water,” the release states.
The pickup had to be flipped over by a fire truck and its roof had to be removed with extrication tools before Torres’ body could be recovered. Police said they saw a case of Budweiser bottles on the floorboard of the vehicle.
A State Police officer made contact with Vasquez at around 7:50 p.m. Vasquez told the officer he and Torres went to Mora “for a few beers” before driving, the complaint states. Vasquez told the officer the current turned his truck sideways before it eventually flipped and floated downstream.
“John (Vasquez) could not swim underneath what he stated was four feet of moving water,” the court document reads. “John (Vasquez) saw Benjie (Torres) trapped in the truck and never saw him get out.”
The complaint said Vasquez told police he left the scene because he was bleeding, had trauma and “just watched his friend die.”
Vasquez was charged with homicide by vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and leaving the scene of an accident knowing there was death or great bodily harm, according to the release. He is being held at the San Miguel County Detention Center.