Authorities investigating a deadly multi-vehicle crash in southwestern New Mexico Friday that killed seven people and ignited a tractor trailer rig fire said that a violent storm system in the area may have contributed to the pileup.
The crash occurred on I-10 ten miles east of the Arizona border at 5:30 p.m., about the same time high winds were reported across southern New Mexico. A storm of thick, blowing dust may have reduced visibility severely in the area of the crash. Some parts of southern New Mexico reported winds of more than 60 mph Friday.
A witness who was traveling on a Greyhound bus from El Paso to Phoenix told KFOX14 that passengers couldn’t see anything when the dust storm hit, but when it cleared they saw smoke.
“I saw smoke as we got closer. I saw four vehicles involved – an RV, truck, car and a semi-truck. They all collided with each other and they all caught on fire,” the witness told KFOX14.
Authorities have not released the identities of the seven people killed in the crash, and they had no word on the number and type of injuries involved.
The pileup reportedly damaged the eastbound lanes of I-10, and both east- and westbound lanes were closed to traffic for several hours while police investigated the scene.
Crash reconstructionists with the New Mexico State Police Department and the state Motor Transportation Division Police are assisting with the investigation, which could take longer than usual because “charred hunks of indiscernible metal were the only thing left,” KFOX14 reported.