A 50-year-old man and a woman were killed when the minivan they were riding in blew a rear tire and rolled over off of Interstate 25 on Tuesday near Upham.
New Mexico State Police told ABC-7 the driver, 43-year-old Maribel Chavez of Albuquerque, apparently lost control, swerved to the right and hit a mile marker that caused the van to roll over several times. It landed 56 feet from the roadway in a ditch.
Authorities confirmed that four of the six passengers in the white minivan were not wearing seat belts and were ejected. Police say 50-year-old Daniel Chavez of Wyoming,and Elsa Hernandez of Albuquerque died in the crash.
Maribel Chavez and 44-year-old Isabel Chavez, 14-year-old Audey Chavez and 5-year-old Jisel Chavez of Wyoming were taken to University Medical Center in El Paso. Two were airlifted and two were taken by ambulance. Their conditions are unknown.
"It was such a serious triage scene out there, and of course, medical personnel comes in and they're just trying to get them out as soon as possible," New Mexico State Police Lt. Roman Jimenez said. "Seat belts and safety harnesses are in place for a purpose and they need to be used properly so we can avoid these types of accidents and fatalities."
The van, which officers said was registered in Wyoming, was surrounded by luggage and debris that had been packed inside. Officers said the group was headed to visit family in Chihuahua, Mexico.
"Most (of the crashes) are avoidable. And an officer never likes to respond to those types of scenes," Jimenez said. "We never like to see death or injuries, so we try to get out the message that it's important you wear your safety belts properly."
Chris Francis, an auto technician from Borman Autoplex in Las Cruces, told ABC-7 that the scorching heat might have played a role in this crash.
"If you check (your tire pressure) after a long drive with the heat, it's usually going to have anywhere from six to eight pounds more pressure. So if your tires are overinflated you could potentially cause a bursting problem with that. When the heat gets up, it causes the expansion," Francis said.
Francis said when a tire blows, it's crucial that the driver maintain control of the car.
"You don't want to hit the brakes because the wheel with the least resistance is going to lock up, which will usually cause the car to spin out. So, the best thing to do is just let off the gas. If you have cruise control just hit the off button, don't hit the brake pedal and just coast it off the road," Francis said.
New Mexico State Police and Doña Ana and Sierra County sheriff's deputies responded to the scene.
Photos From The Scene:Crash Kills 2 North of Las Cruces