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Paint truck removed from Bandelier

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Accident: Innovative techniques were used to extricate the wreck

By Tris DeRoma

Sometime last Friday, San Bar Construction, the owner of a truck hauling traffic paint that ran off a cliff in late September, sent a contractor to N.M. 4 in the Jemez Mountains to retrieve the truck and clean up the damage.

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According to Bandelier National Monument Ranger Scott Ryan, a contractor took most of the day to remove the truck, bringing it down in pieces, instead of trying to bring it all down at once.

The contractor, Southwest Structural Services Inc., of Santa Fe., used some innovative techniques to remove the 1998 International flatbed truck from the mountainside.

“The way we planned it, I’d say removing the truck went about 99.9 percent to plan,” said company president Steven Duran.

What his company did was mostly use a system of cables and sleds to remove the two-ton truck and the rest of the debris. Duran said the most difficult maneuver was to remove the trailer, which had a forklift on the back of it.

“By means of the cable, we literally flipped it,” Duran said. “We flipped it 90 degrees to point down the mountain, then we flipped the forklift back on its tires and things went pretty well from there.”

Southwest then went about moving the actual truck very carefully.

“With that, we didn’t want a runaway type of situation, so we flipped it around,” Duran said. “If you remember the front wheels were ripped off so that made it easy to maneuver.”

The company spent the better part of Monday sending a wooden sled up by their cable system to remove the rest of the debris.

According to Duran, the reason why the National Park Service approved his bid was because it was also environmentally friendly, and it didn’t involve blocking traffic on N.M. 4.  

Duran said the next step will be removing the paint. The truck’s cargo was approximately 1,000 gallons of white and yellow paint used to mark lanes on roadways. From West Jemez Road on the way to Bandelier National Monument, large half-acre blotches of yellow and white paint can still be seen.

Duran submitted a bid to the National Park Service to sandblast the paint from the rock. He said his plan was to leave the trees and other plants alone.

“We think the trees will eventually shed and outgrow the paint,” Duran said.

The crash happened the morning of Sept. 18.

Even though the truck plunged 200-feet off a cliff and down the side of a mountain, the driver of the truck, Francisco Maes, 51, of Willard, escaped with minimal injury.

According to Maes, the brakes stopped functioning, causing him to lose control of the truck and plunge over the mountain into Bandelier National Monument Park.