- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Frank Maes was driving the hairpin turn of N.M. 4 at mile marker 49 when things started going wrong.
Before he knew it, he and his International flatbed truck, loaded with 2,000 gallons of yellow and white striping paint, were plunging over the side of a steep mountain pass.
Maes was lucky.
In fact, soon after his truck, or what was left of it, came to a stop 200 feet below in the Bandelier National Forest, Maes, 51, of Willard, who had been on the job for three months according to his co-workers, got out of his cab and started crawling back up the mountainside.
“As he was going over, he told me he thought he was going to die,” Maes’ wife Karen said. “But something … I think angels were watching him.”
According to Karen, Maes suffered no internal injuries or broken bones, just a laceration on his calf, a massive bruise on one of his hips and a sprained ankle.
Maes was on his way down the mountain Tuesday morning to rendezvous with the rest of his crew when the accident happened. His mission was to deliver the load of paint to the crew.
“He just ran out of brakes, he said he had no more brakes,” Karen said.
Soon after he got out of the cab, a passing motorist noticed Maes and called police.
Calls to his company, San Bar Construction of Albuquerque, have not been returned and Karen said so far as of Wednesday, she had not heard from company officials.
The Los Alamos Police Department was still investigating the accident.
“The cause of the crash is unknown and an investigation continues with help from the N.M. Motor Transportation Division. At this point, no citations have been issued in the crash,” the LAPD said through a written statement.
So far, the truck remains where it came to rest and no plans have been made to move it, the LAPD said. “… The road will need to be closed again in the next few days when larger equipment arrives to clean the paint and extract the truck from the forest,” LAPD officials said.
Bandelier National Monument, meanwhile, released a statement about the impact of the accident on the park.
“Park staff is now in the process of identifying the toxicity of the paint and assessing its impacts to the environment,” the statement said. “The paint spill is visible from roads and hiking trails in and around the monument. By the day following the accident, the paint had congealed, allowing workers to remove the clumps by hand and showing minimal subsurface damage.
“The Los Alamos Laboratory Hazardous Materials Team minimized the spread of the diesel fuel. Bandelier is working with the Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico State Police, Los Alamos Police Department, Los Alamos Fire Department and New Mexico Department of Transportation to investigate safety issues and threats to vulnerable resources in the affected area of the monument.
“The spill is about nine miles by road from the park Visitor Center area and the main trail to the archeological sites and the vast majority of visitors will not be affected by the accident. On some days there will be travel delays or occasional closures along State Road 4 in the area of the spill during cleanup operations.”