A Navajo police officer photographs a car that was involved in an accident with a Navajo Transit bus Friday morning in Twin Lakes, N.M., which is about 15 miles north of Gallup on U.S. Highway 491. According to Navajo Transit bus driver Stanley Brooks Jr., who was driving the bus south from Tohatchi, N.M., saw the car veer into his lane and was not able to avoid a collision. The driver of the car, a female, and several occupants of the bus were taken to Gallup Indian Medical Center for injuries in the accident. Police continue with their investigation. (Times photo – Donovan Quintero)
Don’t Drink & Drive!
TWIN LAKES, NEW MEXICO — Rick Hoskie, 53, was sitting in the second row of the Navajo Transit Bus that was struck by a suspected drunk driver Friday morning on U.S. Highway 491 near mile marker 16.
Hoskie, who rides the Route 14 transit from Newcomb, New Mexico to work in Window Rock, remembers waking up from his nap to a passenger screaming at the black car that sideswiped the right side of the bus.
Navajo Transit bus driver Stanley Brooks Jr., stands next to the bus he was driving when he got into an accident with a car Friday morning on U.S. Highway 491 in Twin Lakes, N.M. (Times photo – Donovan Quintero)
“I was kicking back. My eyes were closed,” Hoskie said, while recounting the 7 a.m. accident from his desk at the Navajo Nation Retirement Services Department.
“All of a sudden, I heard someone scream,” he added. “A lady was screaming and looking forward. I saw a small black car. It was in our lane.”
According to Hoskie, if bus driver Stanley Brooks, Jr., didn’t veer left to avoid the female driver in the black car, the bus would have went head-on and possibly drove over the car.
“The vehicle that came at us had no skid marks. It didn’t try to stop,” Hoskie said.
The black car, which was basically smashed like an aluminum soda can, had caused the bus to slide across the highway, before it landed in the dirt off the highway’s shoulder.
Once the bus came to a halt, Hoskie remembers others in the bus, saying, “Don’t move. Don’t move.”
He was one of the first passengers to dial 911 for help, adding that he and the 18 passengers on the bus had to essentially crawl out of the bus.
Hoskie also reportedly checked on the driver of the black car, who he said had suffered from cuts and bruises and was “OK.” Her car was located on the west side of the highway.
“It was a young lady,” Hoskie said of the driver of the black car, noting that the damage to her car told a different story. “She was OK. She just said her arm hurt.”
From his talk with first responders, tribal, county and state police, and construction crewmembers that are working to expand the highway into four-lanes, Hoskie learned that the driver had been intoxicated.
A tribal official familiar with the accident details confirmed that the driver is suspected of driving while intoxicated and continues to investigate.
According to Brooks, who drives Route 14 between Window Rock and Shiprock, he noticed the vehicle proceeding into the transit’s lane.
“That’s when I made the decision to slow down,” Brooks said, adding that he decided to make a left but the vehicle turned again toward the bus and he then veered back to the right.
When the driver proceeded to go toward the bus, that’s when Brooks veered back to the left – causing passengers to “fly around” in the bus, according to Brooks.
“Everyone screamed because we thought the bus was going to tip over on the side but it came back on its fours and that’s when everybody fell back to the right side,” Brooks said.
Brooks, who said he was shaken up, said that he was going to the health clinic later in the day to get checked out for any injuries, if at all, after processing paperwork about the accident.
Several injured passengers were taken by ambulance to the Gallup Indian Medical Center and those uninjured like Hoskie reportedly went back to work in Window Rock by another transit bus.
Jeremiah Herrera, District 6 project manager for the New Mexico Department of Transportation, said the site of the accident is part of the active construction zone of the highway.
“Right now we have all measures up for construction planning,” he said, adding that his crew at 11:11 a.m. was working toward removing the damaged car and bus off the highway.
Harrison Smith, acting manager for the Navajo Transit System, said A-1 Towing, of Farmington, would tow the passenger bus back to Fort Defiance to the Navajo Transit System Shop.
Navajo Nation Police, McKinley County Sheriffs Deputies and New Mexico State Police were on the scene, along with the Navajo Estates Volunteer Fire Department.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published by The Navajo Times. Used with permission. All rights reserved.