Man found days after fatal crash

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Valencia County Sheriff Louis Burkhard defended his department's protocol following a Tomé car crash late last month when deputies were unable to find the man involved.

The body of the man, Brandon Young, 29, was found five days later by his cousin and Young's girlfriend after the two searched the immediate area. Young was found three-tenths of a mile from the crash scene near N.M. 47 and Vista Solano Drive.

Deputies were unable to find the body after responding to the scene at 10:30 p.m, on Sept. 30.

Burkhard said it's "common sense" to look around the immediate area, but deputies didn't see enough evidence to believe Young was badly injured when he left the crash scene.

He said protocol doesn't require deputies to search an area that would go outside a perimeter of a crash scene without probable cause.

The sheriff said there was minimal damage to the truck that apparently hit a PNM power pole. There was no evidence of foul play, according to the sheriff.

"We are not going to check for miles around," Burkhard said. "We don't have the resources for that."

Young's girlfriend, Jessica Martinez, said both the Los Lunas Police Department and the Valencia County Sheriff's Office could have done more to find Young. She filed a missing person's report with the Los Lunas Police Department on Oct. 1.

She described Young as a caring person who "helped anyone that he could" before his death. She said Young was from Maine and had been working in the state for a company called Renewable Concepts.

"Just because there was no blood doesn't mean there isn't internal injuries," Martinez said. "They could have made more of an effort. They told me they had people combing the area that night."

According to a police report, Martinez said Young told her he was going somewhere and "would be right back" from the Western Skies Inn and Suites in Los Lunas. When he didn't return, she called police.

Martinez said she had known Young for about 10 months and probably "thought he was in trouble" when he decided to leave the crash scene.

Valencia County Sheriff's Capt. Gary Hall said it's a "rare" occasion that someone is able to walk away from a crash scene badly injured without deputies being able to find them. He said there were no indicators that Young was severely injured. He said deputies followed up on "every lead" in the case.

Hall said it was apparent that Young did not want to be located at the crash site.

"It's unfortunate that (friends and family members) found (the body)," Hall said. "We would much rather it be us."

Martinez will have to wait for a few months before toxicology results from the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator that should have a determination on the cause of death.

She said she disagrees with the protocol of the sheriff's office.

"I don't think it's right," Martinez said. "More could have been done."


-- Email the author at bruffner@news-bulletin.com.