ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - Three people died in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 25 Tuesday night despite cable barriers intended to keep vehicles from crossing the median into oncoming traffic.
Department of Transportation officials told KRQE News 13 that stretch of I-25 extending north from Bernalillo is a problem area although the barriers have stopped some potentially deadly collision.
"Those have prevented about 200 similar accidents over those four years, so you know this is just an unfortunate accident," said DOT spokesman Phil Gallegos.
Gallegos said the barrier was put there to prevent these crashes. He said they have proven effective, since that stretch of I-25 was a problem area for high-speed head-on collisions in the past.
"They're designed to stretch to absorb some of the impact, and then stretch back so that it kind of keeps the vehicle on its side of the road," said Gallegos.
As Sky News 13 flew over the wreckage at Algodones video showed a Ford pickup truck ripped to shreds after hitting a semi-truck head-on.
State Police said Charles Graham, 20, was behind the wheel of the truck when it somehow went over part of the cable barrier. He and two of his passengers, 54-year-old Benjamin Carpio, 54, and Joseph Durán, in his late teens, were killed.
Durán's father Gilbert Duran and Kenneth Lucero, 49, survived the crash and are in stable condition at the UNM Hospital.
It appears the pickup did get caught in the cable barrier, but crossed over enough to hit the semi truck. The DOT declined to speculate on whether a concrete barrier would have prevented the head-on impact.
"Hard to tell," Gallegos said. "There again we don't know, exactly the circumstances of the accident."
In July a motorcyclist lost control and hit a concrete barrier on I-25. That driver survived.
Gallegos said both types of barriers save lives, but they don't stop everything.
"There's not perfect way of designing something to stop all accidents," Gallegos continued. "The variables are so numerous that things like this can occur. That's why they call them accidents."
The semi driver is all right.
The DOT said price is not a factor when it comes to placing cable or concrete barriers along highways and that it all depends on traffic in the area.
New Mexico State Police investigators don't know why the driver lost control. They did find alcohol in the pickup and will do blood tests on the three men killed.
Detectives are working on reconstructing the accident to learn more about factors in the crash.
Police said they believe the five people in the truck worked together.
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There was some good news Wednesday. Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputy Robin Hopkins has started walking again.
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