Mountainair resident Billy Weinman was killed while bicycling west of Mountainair, when he and Karl Baumgartner, also a Mountainair resident, were struck by an SUV driven by Seventh Judicial District Court judge Shannon Murdock, according to Torrance County sheriff Martin Rivera.
Baumgartner was airlifted to the hospital.
Rivera said the accident occurred around noon as the bicyclists and Murdock were traveling east on a straight stretch of Highway 60, near mile marker 204, near the top of a hill. “I still don’t have the data on where the point of impact was,” Rivera said. “It seems like the bicycle was in the lane of traffic.”
The vehicle struck the men with its right front corner, he said.
“As far as impairment or distraction, I have nothing on that,” Rivera said. “We didn’t have any indication that she drank any alcohol, but we administered the field sobriety test to cover it. She had zero clues on all of that.” He said they did not administer a breathalyzer test.
“Speed wasn’t even a factor,” Rivera added. “Her vehicle was stopped shortly after where the bikes were.”
Asked by The Independent if he had any idea what might account for the mishap, Rivera said, “Not yet. We’re still looking into it. The bicycle was in the lane of traffic, between the white line and the yellow line. It’s hard to tell because there were no skid marks other than from the bicycles. It’s purely accidental is what it looks like.”
There were no witnesses to the accident, according to Rivera. He said the first law enforcement officers on the scene were his deputies, Brent Woodard and Erwin Young, the lead investigator.
Rivera, who said he arrived at the scene within 20 or 30 minutes of the accident, told The Independent his office is in charge of the investigation, and State Police at the scene were helping with gathering measurements and other data.
According to the New Mexico department of transportation, state law reads: “Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle…” and, “Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care…”
“[Murdock] didn’t have any recollection of how this happened,” Rivera said. “She knew she hit something, she just didn’t know what it was.”
Rivera added, “With traumatic experiences, you tend to block that out.”
The first responders on the scene, according to Rivera, were an ambulance crew from Mountainair, who called to have Baumgartner airlifted to University of New Mexico hospital.
Baumgartner suffered broken vertebrae, broken ribs, a punctured lung and a laceration to his thigh, according to Nancy McCloud, a friend of both bicyclists.
McCloud said, “Billy was [Baumgartner’s] best friend. They did everything together, they rode their bikes together, they went camping, they went on trips. Like when you have a best friend when you’re a little kid and you still have one when you’re a grown up.”
Rivera said the investigator will probably talk to Baumgartner “as soon as he is able to talk.”
As a Seventh Judicial District Court judge, Murdock convenes court for Torrance County in Estancia at the Neil Mertz Judicial Complex, where the sheriff’s office is located. She also holds court in Catron, Sierra and Socorro counties, according to the court’s website.
Torrance County deputies wear lapel cameras, but footage won’t be released until the investigation is finished, Rivera said.
Rivera said the report from his office’s investigation should be finished in about two weeks.
Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]