Crash site left unsecured, veteran's family's belongings taken
Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Keith and Amanda Tucker understand how lucky they are that they and their three young children survived an Interstate 40 rollover crash early Saturday morning with relatively minor injuries.
What they cannot understand is why Bernalillo County Sheriff’s deputies left thousands of dollars worth of their personal belongings strewn across the crash site about 10 miles west of Albuquerque for passers-by to steal.
“There’s nothing they can do now to make this better,” Amanda Tucker said Monday in the family’s cluttered hotel room in Albuquerque’s Northeast Heights. “They should have had someone there.”
Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Aaron Williamson said Monday that the incident has triggered an internal investigation “and as such I am unable to comment on this incident at this time.”
Amanda Tucker said she filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office on Monday.
The family estimates the lost items to be worth $10,000 to $15,000, but Amanda Tucker said some of the items were irreplaceable, such as her husband’s “challenge coins” he collected while in the Marine Corps and her collection of Hallmark Christmas ornaments.
The Tuckers and their children — Madison, 10, Mason, 6, and Mahayla, 2 — were moving from northern California to their new home in Rosser, Texas, early Saturday morning.
About 3:30 a.m., Amanda, who was driving her brotherin-law’s GMC Sierra truck and towing an 18-foot trailer packed with the family’s belongings, lost control of the vehicle when a tire on the truck blew out.
The truck went off the right side of the highway, rolled over twice and came to rest upright a short distance from the mangled trailer, according to the sheriff’s office crash report.
Mason, who apparently had unbuckled his seat belt, was thrown from the truck and landed beside it, suffering a broken right arm and minor cuts and bruises.
Keith Tucker, who had been riding in the front passenger seat, suffered a dislocated shoulder and hip, his wife said.
Amanda Tucker and her two daughters had minor cuts and bruises.
An ambulance and deputies arrived within minutes, Amanda Tucker said, and the family was taken by ambulance to University of New Mexico Hospital where they were treated and released Saturday evening.
“When we were getting ready to leave in the ambulance, Keith asked whether someone should stay behind to pick up our stuff, but the deputy said they’d take care it,” Amanda Tucker said.
Although some of the family’s belongings were picked up — both by sheriff’s deputies and by a passer-by who later left a few boxes of their items at the sheriff’s office — hundreds of items were left at the scene unguarded, she said.
Keith Tucker, a former Marine who served in Iraq and who is a gunsmith by trade, said several of his personal weapons were taken by deputies and returned, but several thousand dollars’ worth of ammunition and reloading equipment disappeared.
The Tuckers say the crash scene was apparently unguarded from sunup Saturday until midmorning Sunday, when Keith’s mother arrived from Texas and drove out to see what might be left of the family’s belongings.
Amanda Tucker said that while she and her husband were at Eagle Towing to recover items still inside the totaled truck on Monday — including family clothing — someone from the State Police called there and told the towing company to go pick up whatever they found at the crash site.
“That’s two days after the crash,” she said. “Our stuff is probably long gone.”
Also among the missing items are: her son’s knife collection, which had been in the family for years; a 200-pound safe; furniture; high-end radio-controlled vehicles; and hundreds of children’s toys and collectibles.
“Some of it is valuable, but a lot of it are things of sentimental value,” Amanda Tucker said as Mason squirmed uncomfortably on the hotel bed. “If we could just get back some of those things, we’d feel a lot better.”
But for now, the Tuckers just want to get to Texas and for whoever is responsible for not securing their belongings to apologize. They plan to leave New Mexico today with Keith’s mother.
“I want someone to admit that things went wrong,” Amanda Tucker said. “And that there’s a flaw in their system.”
The Tuckers also hope that any passers-by who stopped at the crash scene and took any of their belongings will turn them in to the sheriff’s office.