Video shows chaotic scene after deadly March crash

Crime

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New video shows the scene after a car crash near Tramway left a car in flames and one person dead. Six months after the crash, the woman police said was behind the wheel during the fatal crash is now charged with vehicular homicide.


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Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office deputies arrived at the scene on March 12 on Paseo del Norte near Browning. Deputies said Donna Helgesen was driving her son when she rear-ended a car driven by Rick Rivera. Rivera’s car erupted in flames.

Witness: “I just saw it burst.”
Deputy: “You saw it burst?”
Witness: “Yeah. Into like, it’s, it was like a movie scene.”

The passenger of Rivera’s car made it out. Witnesses pulled Rivera out of the burning car through the window but he died on the scene. That night, Helgesen’s son refused to talk to deputies and according to a criminal complaint, Helgesen seemed ‘confused’ when asked questions.

According to a criminal complaint, DNA from the steering wheel shows Helgesen was driving, going more than 100 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone. Helgesen is charged with vehicular homicide. On the night of the crash, she refused to talk with deputies when at the hospital.

“I’m sorry I can’t talk to you but everybody says I’m not supposed to,” Helgesen said. Her son admitted to a firefighter on the scene to drinking and doing cocaine but Helgesen was never tested for alcohol levels.

A spokesperson with the Bernalillo County District Attorney’s Office sent the following statement:

“Donna Helgesen was not tested for her blood alcohol level. The BCSO deputy who investigated for signs of impairment said that he was in close proximity to her and that he did not observe any odor of alcohol nor any indicators of impairment. Because of the information provided by the DWI officer, there was no probable cause for our office to obtain a warrant for her blood alcohol level. We received the full case and discovery in August and signed the arrest warrant early September. The case is now pending.”

District Court Judge Britt Baca-Miller recently allowed Helgesen to be out of jail until trial noting she has a minimal criminal history and scored one out of six on the ‘new criminal activity’ scale. Prosecutors had argued that she had a history of drug and alcohol abuse.

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