Home News Local News Artesia NMDOT employee dies following Monday crash

Artesia NMDOT employee dies following Monday crash

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A longtime New Mexico Department of Transportation employee died following a Monday morning accident in Chaves County that remains under investigation.

Mittie Runyan, 58, of Artesia passed away in a Lubbock, Texas, hospital due to injuries sustained from a three-vehicle incident that occurred about 10:30 a.m. Monday on U.S. 285, according to information from the New Mexico State Police and the New Mexico Department of Transportation.

She and other employees with the Transportation Department had been placing reflectors on a newly resurfaced section of the highway near milepost 82, north of Artesia.

“This painful loss will reverberate statewide,” said Transportation Secretary Mike Sandoval. “We are a close-knit group, and we all grieve when we lose one of our own. Our deepest condolences go out to Mittie’s family who graciously shared her with us for 21 years. We are so sorry for the pain they must be going through. Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.”

The department indicated that Runyan had worked with them since April 3, 2000.

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State Police Chief Tim Johnson also expressed his grief.

“I’m saddened by this tragedy. My officers have a close working relationship with NMDOT, and our thoughts go out to the entire NMDOT family,” said Johnson. “NMDOT crews place their lives on the line every day while working to keep the roads in New Mexico a safe place for everyone traveling our roads.”

According to the State Police, the accident occurred when a 2012 commercial truck rear-ended the 2020 NMDOT pickup that Runyan was operating while headed southbound and in the right lane.

The impact of that collision caused Runyan’s vehicle to ram into a 2012 NMDOT pickup that was driven by a 46-year-old Transportation Department employee and around which two other employees, ages 57 and 24, were working.

Neither the commercial truck driver or the other NMDOT driver were injured. The other two state employees did sustain injuries and were taken to area hospitals, according to the state police. Their conditions were not known by early Tuesday afternoon.

State Police were not releasing the name of the commercial truck driver. The agency indicated that its officers, Crash Reconstruction Unit and Drone Team were investigating the incident. The police did state that alcohol did not seem to be a factor and that seatbelts were worn appropriately.

The police statement reminded drivers to slow down and pull over whenever they see flashing red lights, which the NMDOT release said were in use by Runyan’s vehicle. NMDOT also referred to the Move Over state law, which requires drivers to slow down and, if possible, switch lanes whenever they encounter emergency vehicles with flashing lights or sirens.

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