Oilfield workers, truck driver killed in fiery crash

FOUR oilfield workers from Texas and the driver of tractor-trailer rig die following a fiery head-on crash on a New Mexico road in the heart of what has become the busiest oil and gas region in the United States (US), authorities said on Friday.

The crash happened on Thursday morning when the driver of a pickup truck carrying three passengers crossed the centre line into eastbound traffic and collided with a tractor-trailer rig, police said.

Both vehicles caught fire after the crash. The four workers in the pickup truck and the semi driver were all declared dead at the scene.

It’s unclear what caused the pickup truck to cross lanes, but Officer Ray Wilson said on Friday that alcohol does not appear to have been a factor. The crash comes as local government officials and some state lawmakers have pushed for more funding to improve roads throughout New Mexico’s share of the Permian Basin given the significant increase in traffic as a result of the ongoing oil boom.

Mike Sommers, who leads the American Petroleum Institute, told The Associated Press earlier this year that part of the reason traffic remains a concern is that infrastructure — from roads to pipelines — has not caught up with the demands of the boom.

Crashes along New Mexico State Routes 31 and 128, as well as US 285, have increased over the last year. In response, state transportation officials designated a 29-kilometre safety corridor aimed at getting drivers to slow down along US 285. State police also have stepped up patrols and there are billboards throughout the area urging drivers to be cautious.

The crash occurred along State Route 128 east of Jal, which is about 315 kilometres east of El Paso, Texas.

Police identified the driver of the pickup truck as Arturo Barboza, 22, of Odessa, Texas. His passengers were Alonso Hernandez, 19, and Enrique Leon, 58, both of Odessa, and Justin Brown, 25, of Montgomery. Police did not say what company the men worked for.

The driver of the tractor-trailer rig was identified as Rayshawnda Riley, 27, of Arlington. Police said the rig was used for hauling sand but was empty at the time of the crash. – AP

Grass along New Mexico State Route 128 near Jal shows burn marks following a fatal head-on crash. – AP