Taos resident Antonio Aguilar, 65, died and his wife was critically injured in a two-car head-on collision Saturday night (April 22) that also injured four other people.
Aguilar was driving one vehicle and his wife, Maida, was a passenger when they were allegedly struck head-on by another vehicle near mile marker 35 along State Road 68 south of Taos, according to the Taos County Sheriff's Office.
Law enforcement had originally reported that the crash had occurred at the "horseshoe" curve, located between mile markers 32 and 33 – which has recorded approximately 15 fatalities since 2010 – but later updated the location Wednesday afternoon.
Investigators from Taos County Sheriff's Office arrested the driver of the other vehicle, Francisco Archuleta, 34, of Española, immediately following the crash on one count of homicide by vehicle and two counts of great bodily injury by vehicle. Naomi Archuleta and two children were also in the vehicle at the time of the incident, according to the sheriff's office.
Maida Aguilar and Naomi Archuleta were airlifted from the scene of the crash to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center in Santa Fe.
At 1:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon (April 26), Francisco Archuleta was arraigned before Judge Jeff Shannon in Taos Magistrate Court on one count of DWI, a petty misdemeanor; one count of homicide by reckless driving, a third-degree felony; two counts of great bodily harm by vehicle, a third-degree felony; and two counts of abuse of a child, a third-degree felony.
The accident was reported around 7:29 p.m. Saturday night, according to the sheriff's office.
Taos County rescue workers and emergency medical staff worked late into the night to extricate people from the crash. Lt. Edwardo Martinez, commander of the New Mexico State Police, Taos District, said his officers assisted in closing the roadway between University of New Mexico-Taos and the turnoff to Dixon. The roadway was closed for nearly nine hours.
Before dawn on Sunday morning (April 23), Taos County EMS Chief Joaquin Gonzales reported a total of five patients had been transported to hospitals. "Three patients were transported to Holy Cross with minor injuries and two were airlifted to St. Vincent's (in Santa Fe) in critical condition by two air medical helicopters," Gonzales said in an email. "One was pronounced dead on scene. The two critical patients had to be extricated from their vehicles using the jaws of life."
"We have one individual currently in custody," said Sgt. Gilbert Atencio of Taos County Sheriff's Office on Sunday. "They will be charged with driving under the influence and will probably be charged with vehicular manslaughter charges as well."
A statement from the sheriff's office on Monday morning (April 24) said alcohol was suspected as a contributing factor in the crash.
After reviewing the evidence from the crash, Taos County Sheriff Jerry Hogrefe stated that he believes the accused had veered off onto the shoulder of the roadway and overcorrected, crashing into the other vehicle.
Hogrefe offered some advice on what travelers can do to stay safe when driving along dangerous roadways in New Mexico, where incidences of drunk driving continue to be a concern for law enforcement across the state.
"Drunk driving does appear to happen more often here than in other counties in other areas," he said. "As far as driving tactics go, always be aware of the roadway and other vehicles. Always focus on your driving and don't ever text and drive."
For more on this story, check back on taosnews.com.