Vialpando, wife, in car accident

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Former Los Lunas mayor Robert Vialpando and his wife, Doris, a fine arts teacher at Los Lunas High School, were in a car crash on U.S. 380 driving east to Carrizozo late last month.

It was about 10 a.m. on June 26 when the couple were headed to Austin, Texas, to participate in the "Antique's Road Show" when another driver heading west fell asleep at the wheel and crossed lanes, said the former mayor.

"We were just a little bit out of San Antonio when I saw a car coming in the opposite direction," Vialpando said. "Then all of a sudden, he just got in our lane and was coming at us head on."

Trying to avoid the collision, Vialpando veered to the left. The speed limit was 65 mph, and the oncoming driver did not slow down. His vehicle slammed into Vialpando's Nissan Altima's passenger door.

"She (Doris) was actually trapped in there; she could not get out because her feet were trapped in the floor of the car," Vialpando said.

White Sands Missile Range Fire Department rescue personnel came out from the Army base with the jaws of life to cut her out, but it took an hour and she was in a lot pain.

Vialpando said his wife's right femur was broken as well as her right elbow.

Two ambulances from Socorro had arrived and one of them took her to Presbyterian Hospital. At the hospital, doctors discovered Doris had a partially collapsed lung, and she was taken by helicopter to the University of New Mexico-Hospital trauma unit in Albuquerque.

"For a while there, she was in pretty dire straits," Vialpando said. "They had to give her oxygen and they put casts on both her arm and her leg.

She has been in the hospital since the crash, and will enter a rehabilitation unit when she is released from UNM-H.

"She is improving and I'm just happy that we survived because it could have been much worse," Vialpando said. "Had I not seen him, or glanced away for a second, he would have hit us head on."

Vialpando sustained minor injuries and was x-rayed for broken ribs, but he just received bruising from the seat belt and the airbag, he said.

"I'm glad it wasn't worse, I'm glad it wasn't a head injury or internal injury," he said.

There was no cell phone reception in the area, so he couldn't call 911. A Belen rancher had stopped to help and he was able to call for help.

Although U.S. 380 isn't very busy, right away people stopped to see if they could help, Vialpando said, and the Belen rancher offered to take the couple's luggage back to Los Lunas.

Two old paintings that used to belong to Vialpando's great-grandfather that Doris was taking to the "Antique Road Show" were not damaged.

The other driver's car wasn't a big car, Vialpando said, but it was completely demolished, and the driver was also taken to the hospital.

Vialpando was the mayor of Los Lunas from 2009 to 2014 and had been on the village council for many years prior. Doris Vialpando has been teaching in the Los Lunas Schools for 22 years.

"I'm just glad that my wife is healing," Vialpando said. "She's, of course, very concerned because school starts in six weeks. She was concerned about not being able to start school, but we just have to do what we have to do."


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