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Top Stories

Wednesday, February 23, 2000

Dust storm causes Highway 17 wrecks

Staff Writers
PECOS,  Feb. 23, 2000 - High winds created walls of dust Tuesday afternoon along Highway 17 between Pecos and Saragosa, and were blamed for causing at least four multiple-vehicle accidents, one involving a Balmorhea ISD special education school bus.

The accident was the first of the wrecks reported to the Pecos Police Department, and the first of two at the same location.

The accident was reported at 2:50 p.m., on Highway 17, 12.7 miles south of Pecos, and the others occurred in rapid succession, four and 10 miles south of the original wreck. The accidents led local law enforcement officials to close the road for several hours between Saragosa and Pecos.

According to the Department of Public Safety, the first accident occurred when a 1986 Astro Van, driven by Miguel Angel Dominguez, of Ojinaga, Mexico, was parked on the improved shoulder, due to the blowing dust, which sent visibility down to zero along the highway.

While parked on the shoulder of the road, the van was hit from behind by a 1994 Ford school bus, driven by Elida Bently Rodriguez, of Balmorhea. Rodriguez was driving the bus back from Pecos to Balmorhea with one special education student, who attends programs in Pecos.

"They're fine," said Balmorhea ISD Superintendent Dr. Carl Hoffmeyer. "There was only one student in the bus, and he was strapped in."

Four people, including two children, in the Astro van were injured slightly in the accident and sent to Reeves County Hospital, according to DPS Trooper David Chauvin, who investigated the accident.

Injured were Miguel Angel Dominguez, 22, a laborer from Ojinaga, Mexico, who was listed in good condition with minor injuries at Reeves County Hospital; Sylvia Dominguez, Mendoza, 36, a housewife, of Ojinaga, Mexico, also listed in good condition, with minor injuries at Reeves County Hospital.

Children injured were Nelly Tapia, 12, a student of Ojinaga, Mexico, listed in good condition with minor injuries at Reeves County Hospital and Jessica Tapia, 15, also of Mexico, listed in good condition with minor injuries at RCH.

Ambulances from Pecos, Saragosa and Balmorhea responded to the accident, and the first responding ambulance from Pecos was hit from behind by a third vehicle that drove into the dust cloud where the school bus wreck occurred. No one was reported injured in the second accident.

"The ambulance received very minor damage," said Ambulance Chief Bill Randall Cole. Fire department and sheriff's deputy vehicles were forced to stop just short of the first accident site, and were among about 30 people forced to wait out the dusty conditions before being able to proceed.

The dust, blowing off plowed fields to the west of Highway 17 began obscuring the road just south of the Lindsay Addition. Until the winds began to die down a bit an hour after the first accident, emergency vehicles were unable to proceed further south to the second wreck, reported near the FM 869 interchange on Highway 17, and the third wreck, which reportedly involved a truck-tractor in the Verhalen area.

Three other people were reportedly taken to Reeves County Hospital from those accidents, but full reports were not available from the DPS at press time.

Wind gusts reached 60 miles per hour at the Pecos Municipal Airport by mid-afternoon, as the result of the back end of a cold front that blew through the area Monday night. Pecos, Toyah and Barstow received between a tenth and three-tenths of an inch of rain from the front, but the showers missed areas to the south of Pecos, allowing Tuesday's dust storm to occur.

"I think it was the gust factor," said Pecos Municipal Airport manager Isabel Blanchard. "We've had winds of 50 miles per hour before, but it was the lack of steady winds I think that made it so bad."

Hinojos receives 10-month prison term

Staff Writer
PECOS,  Feb. 23, 2000 - Pecos resident Yolanda Hinojos of 1718 West Jackson Blvd., was sentenced to 10 months in prison yesterday before a standing-room-only crowd of friends and onlookers in Federal Judge Royal Furgeson's courtroom in the Lucius D. Bunton Federal Building in Pecos.

Hinojos had already plead guilty to 70 counts of misappropriation of Social Security benefits back on December 1 as part of a plea bargain agreement with the government.

"The sentencing guidelines recommend a range of 10 to 16 months confinement for this type of offense," prosecuting United States District Attorney James Miller said. "As part of the plea bargain, the United States recommended 10 months."

Miller said that each count Hinojos was indicted on carried a maximum punishment of five years imprisonment and three years supervised release.

Judge Furgeson sentenced Hinojos to 10 months in prison and three years supervised release. Furgeson also told Hinojos that he would recommend a "split sentence" to the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), and that Hinojos be allowed to serve the sentence locally at the Reeves County Detention Center.

Furgeson said that if the BOP accepted his recommendation (which the BOP does not have to do) she would only have to spend the first five months of her sentence in prison, and the last five months of the "split" would be added on to her three years of supervised release.

Furgeson also ordered Hinojos to pay restitution and a special assessment as part of the sentence.

Although she can begin paying the monies at any time, Furgeson ordered that the payments must begin when she is released from prison. Furgeson ordered that she pay back $22,386 in restitution and pay $7,000 as a special assessment.

Added together the payments will total about $800/month for the duration of her supervised release.

Furgeson also delayed the date Hinojos must report to prison until April 12.

District Attorney Miller said that he was pleased with sentence.

"Justice was served today," he said.

Miller said the case arose out of Hinojos' misappropriation of social security funds that belonged to her aunt, Carlota Nunez.

In the plea bargain, Hinojos plead guilty to taking $22,386 in social security benefits intended for Nunez, and using them for her own benefit.

According to Miller, Hinojos was the representative payee for Nunez' social security benefits from 1988 to 1997.

In 1992 Hinojos placed Nunez in the Pecos Nursing Home but did not notify Social Security of the change, he said.

The change in residence would have reduced Nunez' benefits. Hinojos was terminated as the payee for Nunez' benefits in 1997 when the Social Security Administration found out Nunez was in the nursing home, he said.

Along with failing to notify the Social Security Administration of the change, Hinojos then spent the money on herself, Miller said.

RCH board calls for study after census drop

Special Correspondent
PECOS,  Feb. 23, 2000 - Reeves County Hospital District board members called for a four-year statistics study for the hospital during their regular meeting Tuesday.

Board vice president Marcella Lovett inquired as to the feasibility of conducting the study starting with 1997 after going over current statistics numbers as compared to the same time last year. The discussion opened with board president Hiram Luna's question regarding a 65.22 percent drop in the Intensive Care Unit census days or the amount of days spent in the ICU setting.

The report also showed a 39.08 percent drop in total admissions and 45.45 percent drop in newborns admitted. Obstetric stays were down 36 percent as compared to January 1999. Ultrasound procedures showed a drop as well.

However, Richard Mathis, RCH controller, said the numbers were impacted by the fact that the hospital had two in-house obstetrician/gynecologists last year and this year only one is on board.

"I hope to have someone here by summer," CEO Charles Butts told the board and that efforts to replace Dr. Kai-Wood Ma, who left in September, are underway.

Lovett told Mathis to conduct the study so as to the look at the long-range trend. "This is something we're going to have to address," Lovett said, if the numbers show a steady decrease.

Rural health clinic visits were up by more than half this year with numbers showing 349 visits from 180 last January. Emergency room visits showed a slight increase from last year.

In other action during the board's regular monthly meeting, members commended the efforts of the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Independent School District Tax Assessor Collectors office, who reported that out of a $1,634,680.68 balance, $1,076,027.52 of hospital district taxes have been collected with $809,887.77 of that collected in January, 2000.

An order to call the upcoming hospital district election was read by Luna, and a list of election workers as submitted by the election coordinator, were approved by the board unanimously.

Elections for two-year terms for Precincts 1 and 3 and Luna's at large seat will take place May 6. Early voting will begin April 19 at the Pecos Community Center, 508 S. Oak St.

After brief discussion regarding computer software upgrades, contract pharmacist services, indigent fees and lab supplies board members approved the payment of bills report as presented.

Mathis explained to the board that Reeves County Hospital shares a pharmacist with Monahans and Van Horn hospitals.

"These alleviates the of keeping an in-house hospital pharmacist," said Butts, who said that there is a big difference between, "a retail pharmacist and a hospital pharmacist. We wouldn't want to use a retail pharmacist."

Chief of Staff, Dr. W.J. Bang recommended the reappointment of Dr. William Reilly, MD, who had temporary privileges as a courtesy staff member for the years 2000-2001. All board members voted to approve the recommendation.

A representative from the architectural firm hired for the emergency room remodeling project was here last week, according to Butts. "This person will oversee the construction and will put everything out for bid according to the by-laws that govern us as a hospital district," he said.

"I will meet with him next week to see how he will proceed with the bids," Butts added. "This is really going to be an attractive addition to the hospital,"

He said renovations will include two large parking areas and a new, relocated reception area, and told the board that he will be receiving the new floor plans soon.

During his administrators report, Butts also told the board that the stress/time management workshop conducted by the hospital for district employees was, "a huge success," and plans are underway for an "ethics and confidentiality" workshop for hospital employees.

The automatic lobby doors have arrived and will be installed next Tuesday, Butts told board members, adding that there are plans to install automatic doors to the patio area so that patients with walkers, IVs or wheel chairs may have easier access.

Lovett asked Butts if the installation of the new doors will in any way, "interfere with patients going in and out of the lobby."

"We don't expect any disruptions," answered Butts, "but a maintenance person will be on hand if necessary."

"Five years ago…" said Luna, "we were facing some pretty bleak times," recalling a workshop in Dallas he and Lovett attended where they met with a lobbyist. "Things have really turned around…" continued the board president, "and it feels good that we are now building."

Valenzuela third to enter P-B-T race

PECOS,  Feb. 23, 2000 - Things are heating up in the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board elections as a third person joined the race in only the second day since filling began.

Steve Valenzuela filed for a position on the board, joining Paul Deishler and incumbent Steve Armstrong in seeking one of the two available seats on the P-B-T board in the May 6 election.

Two positions are currently open on the board, for a three-year period.

Armstrong is trying for his second consecutive three-year term on the board, after serving in the post during the 1980s. The other school board member whose term is up for election, Freddy Lujan, has not filed yet to run in the May election.

Aside from the school board, area voters will also be casting ballots on May 6 for the Balmorhea ISD board, along with city elections in Pecos, Barstow, Toyah and Balmorhea. Reeves County voters also will cast ballots for the at-large seat on the Reeves County Hospital District board, and the seats on the RCH board for Precinct 1 and Precinct 3 also will be on the ballot that day.

In the city elections, terms up are for mayor and two council positions, and all seats are for two-year periods. The hospital district seats also are two-year terms, while those up for election on the Balmorhea school board are three-year terms.

P-B-T accepting gifted and talented  applications

PECOS,  Feb. 23, 2000 - The Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD is seeking students in the district for the Gifted and Talented Program.

If a child demonstrates an unusual ability in the visual or performing arts, thinks in creative or unusual ways, or shows strong leadership traits, he or she may be gifted in one of those areas. Children who have any of these characteristics may be nominated for the Gifted and Talented Program.

Nominations may be made by parents, relatives, teachers, or community members and should be submitted by March 1.

Forms must be completed on each student nominated and can be obtained by calling the G/T Program Coordinator, Nancy Russell, at 447-7236, or by calling the G/T facilitator at the student's school.


AUSTIN (AP) - Results of the Cash 5 drawing Tuesday night: Winning numbers drawn: 5-23-25-27-35. Number matching five of five: zero. Matching four of five: 229. Prize: $859.


AUSTIN (AP) - The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Tuesday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 3-7-3 (three, seven, three)


PECOS,  Feb. 23, 2000 - High Tuesday 70. Low this morning 47. Forcast for tonight: Fair skies. Low in the lower 40s. Southwest wind 5-15 mph. Thursday: Partly cloudy and continued warm. High in the mid 70s. Southwest wind 15-25 mph. Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower 40s. Friday: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower 40s. High in the mid 70s.

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