The New Mexico State Police responded to a fatal collision around 12:30 p.m., Thursday involving a semi-tractor-trailer and a Greyhound bus on Interstate 40 around mile post 50 in McKinley County. Interstate 40 westbound was completely closed for approximately eight hours because of this crash and subsequent investigation.
This crash scene occurred in a rural area between Gallup and Grants, NM. Multiple agencies responded to assist at the scene, including the Milan Police Department, Navajo Nation Police Department, McKinley County Sheriff’s Office, Cibola County Sheriff’s Office, McKinley County Fire Department, Cibola County Fire Department, and numerous surrounding volunteer fire departments. As officers and EMS arrived at the scene, they encountered passing motorists who had stopped to render aid to the injured.
Those injured were transported to area hospitals via ambulances and multiple medical helicopters.
The preliminary investigation indicates a 2017 Freightliner semi-tractor-trailer, owned by JAG Transportation out of Fresno, CA, was traveling east on Interstate 40. The tractor-trailer suffered driver side front tire failure when the tire tread separated from the case. The tire failure caused the tractor-trailer to cross the median into opposing westbound traffic on Interstate 40, colliding head-on with a westbound Greyhound passenger bus.
The 2015 MCI Greyhound bus involved in the collision originated from St. Louis, Mo., and was bound for Los Angeles, Calif. On board were 47 passengers and the driver (48 occupants total). Officers identified seven fatalities at the scene, including the bus driver, identified as Luis Alvarez, 49, of Santa Teresa, N.M.
Twenty-six passengers sustained varying degrees of injuries and were transported from the scene for medical treatment. One of those passengers later died at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, raising the number of fatalities to eight. Fifteen passengers in the bus were uninjured.
The driver of the semi-tractor-trailer, a 35-year-old male licensed out of California, sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the collision. He will not be identified as he is currently not facing any charges. The semi-tractor-trailer originated from Marina, Calif., and was traveling to Memphis, Tenn., carrying produce.
All other identifying information regarding the deceased will not be released until appropriate notifications are made. The New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator will be releasing the identities of the deceased.
The New Mexico State Police Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Bureau is conducting a full inspection of both vehicles involved in this collision in conjunction with the National Transportation Safety Board. Further details regarding this investigation will be available at the completion of the investigation by the New Mexico State Police Crash Reconstruction Unit.
The McKinley County Emergency Management has established a reunification center for families affected by this tragedy. FAMILIES ONLY seeking information about a family member involved in this incident should call the McKinley County Emergency Operations Center at 505.722.4246.