BERNALILLO, New Mexico (CBS4) — The names of three people killed in a chain-reaction crash on I-25 Sunday north of Albuquerque were released Wednesday.
All three are women from Mexico who were living at the time in Colorado.
The Sandoval County (NM) Sheriff’s Office identified 65-year-old Maria Delosangeles, 58-year-old Olga Hernandes de Grajeda, and 70-year-old Maria Doleres Orrantia Camacho as the crash’s fatalities.
Delosangeles was living in Denver, de Grajeda in Rocky Ford, and Camacho in Loveland.
The three women were passengers in a El Paso-Los Angeles Limousine Express bus bound for El Paso, Texas, from Denver.
“This is definitely one of the worst accidents I’ve seen in my career,” Chief James Maxon of the Sandoval County Fire Department told CBS affiliate KQRE the day of the wreck.
The accident occurred around 2 a.m. Sunday. It began when a southbound car rear-ended a pickup. The pickup traveled into the highway’s median, broke through containment cables, and stopped in the northbound lanes of I-25.
In 9-1-1 recordings released by the sheriff’s office Wednesday, the pickup truck’s driver can be heard telling a dispatcher he is uninjured and walking back to the car that struck his truck. His tone changes dramatically.
“Oh my God. You hear that? There are more accidents,” he says.
The driver of the passenger bus, also going southbound, tried to avoid the wreckage but lost control. The bus landed also crossed the median and broke through the median cables, and landed on its side in the northbound lanes.
That course, unfortunately, put the bus and its passengers in the path of a northbound tractor-trailer. The semi side-swiped the bus, traveled through the median and its cables, across both southbound lanes of I-25, and came to a stop off the highway.
More than three dozen people were treated for injuries. As of Wednesday, 10 remain hospitalized. Only one is still in critical condition.
Previous reports that a person ejected from the car was among the dead were incorrect.
KRQE questioned the New Mexico Department of Transportation this week about the failure of the median cables, which are designed to prevent traffic from crossing into oncoming lanes. A spokesperson replied that the cables are not guaranteed to stop large, high-speed vehicles, and factors such as angle of impact and whether a vehicle is airborne can also lessen the cables’ effectiveness.
All passengers of the El Paso to Los Angeles Limousine Express bus have been reunited with their families and transported to their destinations.