DOT faces lawsuit over road conditions on Highway 285

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The state has admitted the infamous highway needs work. Now, a New Mexico family is suing the state after a deadly head-on crash. They claim the problems on Highway 285 are partly to blame for the crash.           

It was a horrific scene along Highway 285 two months ago. A north bound oil truck driver tried to pass in the southbound lane, flipping a semi before hitting a pickup truck head-on, killing a Roswell man and his passenger.

“Our son was killed on Feb. 18 of this year, a head on with a semi,” Paulene Ponce told KRQE News 13 back in March.

She is the mother of 39-year-old Michael Ponce who lost his life that day. Now, the Ponce family is taking action to ensure the safety of others driving along 285.

They are suing Oil Field Outfitters, the Texas-based owner of the semi, along with the driver and the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

They claim Leonardo Ferras, the driver of the oil truck who caused the crash, was fatigued, using his phone while driving, and failing to stay in his lane – a problem State Police know to be true.

“A lot of problems we’ve seen and heard about are people passing in no passing zones, passing on the shoulder,” said NMSP Captain Lance Bateman.

Just last month, the DOT and NMSP held a meeting in Loving to address community concerns.

At the meeting, DOT announced that the 22 mile stretch of 285, from Loving to the Texas state line, is now a safety corridor, meaning double fines.

The lawsuit is also against DOT for failing to maintain and expand the highway, issues that have been discussed time and time again.

“It has become a very dangerous road. A lot of truck traffic and just a lot of traffic, so we’re trying to improve it and get it safer,” said NMDOT Cabinet Secretary Tom Church.

After the crash, the truck driver stated he hit a pothole. State Police didn’t find one there and believe he fell asleep.

DOT is not commenting on the lawsuit. The state has set aside $25 million to fix up the 22 mile stretch along 285.

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