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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
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Thursday, April 11, 2002

Two Marshal's Service inmates die in van crash

Staff Writers

PECOS, Thurs., April 11, 2002 -- Two U.S. Marshal's Service inmates were killed and 11  others injured Wednesday when the van they were passengers in  crashed while traveling from El Paso to Odessa on Interstate 10 in Jeff  Davis County.

The two inmates killed in the accident were identified as Francisco Letkemon-Wiebe, 48, and Jose Rubio, 25. The 11 other inmates and the driver of the van were also hurt and were transported by ambulance to hospitals in Pecos and Van Horn.

The U.S. Marshal's Service did not immediately release the names of the other 11 injured inmates. A spokesperson for the Marshal's Service office in El Paso said a list of names of the other inmates would be released sometime this afternoon.

Letkemon-Wiebe and Rubio were pronounced dead at the scene by Jeff Davis County Justice of the Peace George Grubb and their bodies were taken to Geeslin Funeral Home in Alpine.

Three inmates transported to Culberson County Hospital in Van Horn were later taken to R.E. Thomason General Hospital in El Paso, though after initial reports that at least one of the inmates was listed in extremely critical condition, the seriousness of the other injuries were downgraded this morning, according to a spokesperson for CiviGenics of Texas, the operator of the van.

"All of the injured are expected to be released today," said Jim Shaw, South Regional Director for CiviGenics, speaking from the company's offices in Waco. "One of them had three broken ribs and I believe one other had a broken bone.

"One had a scalp injury, which was the most serious of the ones in El Paso," he said. Shaw added that his office also had received initial reports that the inmate with the scalp injury was in "extremely critical" condition.

"When they took him out of there, they didn't know if he had any internal head injuries when his head was cut," he said. The inmate with the scalp laceration was also unconscious when he was taken first to Van Horn and then by ambulance with the two other inmates to Thomason General Hospital.

Two of the eight inmates taken to Reeves County Hospital were later airlifted to other hospitals for treatment of their injuries, according to Nancy Ontiveros, Director of Program Development/Community Services for Reeves County Hospital.

Ontiveros said one inmate was flown to Midland Memorial Hospital and a second to Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock. Shaw said he believed the inmate flown to Lubbock was the one who had suffered the three broken ribs in the rollover.

This six other inmates and the driver of the van, Dwayne Taylor, were treated for minor injuries at Reeves County Hospital, while another guard in the van who remained at the site after the accident, Mike Contreras, was later taken by law enforcement officers to the hospital to be checked out.

The six inmates and Contreras were treated and released, while Ontiveros said Taylor was transported to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. However, neither MCH nor Midland Memorial Hospital said they had any record of Taylor being treated Wednesday night.

Taylor and Contreras had left Odessa about 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday on a 560-mile round trip to transport inmates from El Paso to Odessa. The two were making the trip along with two other guards in a second van, and left El Paso at about 12 noon CDT, headed back to the Ector County Correctional Center in Odessa, which is also operated by CiviGenics.

They had driven about 165 miles of the 280-mile trip between El Paso and Odessa when the accident occurred.

According to Sgt. Luis Najera of the Department of Public Safety office in Van Horn, the van was eastbound on I-10 at the 183 mile marker when the accident occurred, in the Springhills area of northern Jeff Davis County, 45 miles west of Pecos.

"Apparently the driver was fatigued and in a state of mental inactivity when he drifted off the side of the roadway and lost control of the vehicle," Najera said. The van struck a bridge abutment and rolled off the right side of the road and down a 10-foot embankment, before coming to rest facing west on the seldom-used north service road of I-10.

Najera said the inmates were not wearing seat belts when the accident occurred, and some were ejected from the van. "The two deceased were ejected. We know that for sure, and a third person also was ejected," he said.

Although Najera said driver fatigue was suspected in the accident, Contreras, who remained behind at the crash site after the others were transported to Van Horn and Pecos, said that one of the guards in the second van also told him a blowout occurred.

"The officer behind us said we had a blowout of our front tire," said Contreras.

Taylor and Contreras were in the front seat of the Ford van, while the 13 inmates were in four rows of seats behind a metal grill in the rear of the vehicle. The other inmates in the second van were not hurt when the accident occurred, and were transported to the Pecos Municipal Law Enforcement Center before being taken to Odessa.

Shaw said under normal procedures, Contreras would have driven the van from Odessa to El Paso, while Taylor would then have driven the van back to Odessa. Shaw also disputed the initial DPS report that fatigue was a factor.

"It's unusual for DPS to make that assessment without an investigation," said Shaw. "He (Taylor) was off for two days prior and had a total output time of 10 hours, so that (fatigue) was not the case. If you look at the man's time he was nowhere near overworked."

Damage was visible to the front driver's side tire at the accident site, though Shaw said because the van struck the overpass abutment and guardrail and rolled down the embankment, it would be hard to tell right away if a blowout did occur.

I did a check and the last total vehicle maintenance was on Feb. 28," Shaw said. "It was a 2001 Ford van, so it was a relatively new van that was in good shape."

Shaw added that "It's my understanding the officers do a physical view check of the vehicle," before making their trips.

GiviGenics is based in Massachusetts. According to the company's Website, federal prisoners are detained at the Ector County facility under contract with the U.S. marshal's office for the Western District. The contract is similar to the one the Town of Pecos City has entered into with the U.S. Marshal's Service for housing inmates at the new Pecos Municipal Criminal Justice Center.

Prisoners for the Pecos Municipal Criminal Justice Center are transported by bus by the U.S. Marshals Service.

"Right now, the U.S. Marshals Service brings us the inmates, they do all the transporting themselves and use their own agents," said Town of Pecos City Police Chief Clay McKinney.

McKinney said that plans are underway to assist the U.S. Marshals in transporting the inmates, but it will be awhile before that occurs.

"We have ordered a van to assist the U.S. Marshals, but it has to meet certain specs," said McKinney.

He added that the U.S. Marshals Service decides which inmates will be transported to the Pecos facility. "We really don't know where they will be coming from," he said.

"The U.S. Marshals Service calls us up and lets us know how many inmates need to be transported to Pecos and they do the transporting," McKinney said. "They just notify us of a certain amount of inmates that will be coming in."

Council discusses changing Pecos EMS funding method

Staff Writer

PECOS, Thurs., April 11, 2002 -- Pecos Emergency Medical Service personnel were on hand at the  regular Town of Pecos City Council meeting this morning to discuss  the possibility of enacting a voluntary citizen donation plan to help fund  the EMS service.

Mayor Pro Tem Danny Rodriguez addressed the council with concerns about funding for the ambulance service through local taxes.

He explained there had been meetings discussing the possibility of separating the ambulance service from the city making it into another taxing entity.

"We have had meetings about trying to have a different district for the EMS," he said.

Rodriguez said that if the ambulance service were separated into a different taxing entity, taxpayers would pay 10 cents toward the EMS when they currently pay 13 cents through the city taxes.

Instead, Rodriguez said that another community with the same problem had placed a voluntary citizen donation into effect.

"Another community put in a dollar into each water bill voluntarily," he said.

City Attorney Scott Johnson explained that the way the voluntary donations would work is adding a box that each citizen could check if they wanted to donate.

The council asked Johnson to look into the possibility further.

City Finance Director George Bejarano handed a list of suggestions on running the ambulance service more efficiently to Ambulance Service Director John Cravey.

City Manager Carlos Yerena said that the list of suggestions were just on a few internal procedures.

After the meeting Cravey said that he was unaware of the city's concerns and was somewhat surprised by the list.

"Some of the things on there we have already done," he said.

During the meeting members of the council expressed their concern that the EMS service is run well.

"We want to be able to run our department as efficiently as we can," Councilman Ricky Herrera said.

Cravey said that he has no problems with what was requested on the list and plans to meet with Yerena and Bejarano.

In other action this morning, the council awarded a contract to Allcomm Long Distance and Oilfield Phone Service for 22 new computers to be installed at the new Pecos Municipal Criminal Justice Center.

Yerena explained to the council that Allcomm was one of three bids turned in to the city for the police department's computer system.

Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney said that he had looked over the bids and based his recommendation on price and history of the company.

"We feel our best recommendation is Allcomm," he said.

Allcomm turned in a bid of $37,185.32, which includes all new equipment for the 22 computer systems the police department needs.

Johnson said the city favored the proposal from Allcomm, which would install new computers, rather than go with another bid that refurbished the old computers.

"The option of going with new ones was cheaper than refurbishing old ones," he said.

McKinney also explained that Allcomm would add a one-year warranty on labor if any computer were to break down.

Allcomm Vice President Don Alligood assured the council that if they approved his company's bid that they would begin installing the computers today.

The council tabled awarding of engineering services for the Pecos Single Family Subdivision on Yerena's request.

The council also received an update on the development of the South Worsham Water Well Field from Spencer & Associates Engineer Ashek Rana.

Rana explained that eight successful water wells have been drilled each emitting 170 to 750 gallons of water per minute.

Rana said that that totals 4,000 gallons per minute which is "what we expected from 20 wells."

However, Spencer & Associates plan to drill all of the 18 holes that are funded in order to have extra wells for the future.

Also this morning, the council approved the monthly reports from the municipal court and juvenile offices as well as the accounts payable and minutes from the previous meeting.

Credit by Exam sign-up deadline Friday for students

PECOS, Thurs., April 11, 2002 -- Friday is the sign-up deadline for Credit by Examination (without prior instruction), at the counselor's office at the Pecos High School.

Students can sign up with Pat Cobos or Eva Arriola. The test is scheduled for 4:45 p.m. on May 13, 14 and 15 at the high school.

Credit by examination for acceleration allows students enrolled in grades nine through 12 to be awarded credit toward high school graduation for acceleration.

Students who wish to obtain for any class that counts toward graduation may apply to take the examination for acceleration. The student may not have been previously enrolled in the class. Application may be obtained from the student's guidance counselor.

Credit is granted to students who attain 90 percent or above mastery on the examination for acceleration. The test will only be administered once in the fall and spring semesters.


PECOS, Thurs., April 11, 2002 -- High Wednesday 91. Low this morning 58. Forecast for  tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows 55 to 60. South winds 5 to 15 mph. Friday:  Partly cloudy. Highs in the lower 90s. South winds 5 to 15 mph. Friday night:  Partly cloudy. Lows near 55. Saturday: Partly cloudy. Highs 85 to 90. Sunday:  Partly cloudy. Lows in the mid 50s. Highs from the upper 80s to the lower 90s.

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