State will pay Booth family

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By Carol A. Clark

The state of New Mexico has agreed to pay $550,000 to the family of Patricia Vigil-Booth, who was killed when her car crashed after sliding on liquid de-icer that had been sprayed on N.M. 502.Vigil-Booth, 53, died Dec. 15, 2006, in the fourth and final crash that day on the highway between Pojoaque and Los Alamos. Her car slammed into another car being loaded onto a tow truck.The state also has agreed to pay $200,000 to the tow truck's driver, Craig Nyland, who was injured in the crash, said Bob Rothstein, attorney for the Booth family.The $750,000 settlement was the maximum that could be awarded under state law.“Money is not everything – it does help but it doesn’t bring my mom back,” said Vigil-Booth’s son, Ben Martinez, this morning. “If I could, I’d give that money back if they’d give me my mom back. Nothing will ever be the same. No holiday will ever be the same; no birthday will ever be the same. My mom did so much for so many people in this community and no matter what happens, nothing will ever be the same.”The Booth family sued the New Mexico Department of Transportation in state district court in Santa Fe five months after the crash. The lawsuit alleged the agency did nothing to correct dangerously slick road conditions or to warn motorists.The Santa Fe County Sheriff's Department attributed the crash to magnesium chloride, a chemical anti-icing solution.The Department of Transportation announced last November that it would no longer use the chemical and instead would use salt water as a de-icer.In a 2003 study, Department of Transportation researchers raised red flags about using anti-icing agents in the absence of recent precipitation that might wash residual oil and gasoline from roadways.Los Alamos had received scant snowfall or rain during the two weeks leading to the crash.However, a Department of Transportation safety supplemental report completed after the accidents said that workers did not over apply the anti-icing liquid.The report also said agency workers drove the roads that had been treated and experienced no abnormal conditions.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.