Mesita, NM Auto And Pickup Truck Crash, Jul 1973

CRASH KILLS 7; DRIVER 'ASLEEP'

Mesita (AP) - State Police Officer Juan Chavez says the driver of a pickup truck involved in a crash with a New Jersey station wagon Sunday that left seven persons dead "apparently was asleep."
Chavez said the westbound pickup truck driven by STEPHEN PLATERO, 24, Canoncito, one of those killed, and the eastbound New Jersey station wagon crashed in the eastbound lane on Interstate 40, one mile west of Mesita. Mesita is about 35 miles west of Albuquerque.
Chavez said the truck "changed lanes from right to left and kept on going across the median."
Chavez said, "It looked like the driver of the station wagon tried to swerve to the right as he came up the highway. He didn't have a chance to see the truck until it was too late."
Officers identified the dead as MARIO FREZZA, 38; his wife, BARBARA, 37; a daughter, TERRI, 16; and a son, MARIO, JR., 10, all of Clark, N.J., and STEPHEN PLATERO, 24, of Canoncito.
Police said the two other dead, who were riding in the truck, hadn't been identified late Sunday, but were believed to be from New Mexico.
The lone survivor of the crash was DONNA FREZZA, 13, who was hospitalized at Cibola Hospital in Grants. The hospital said she was in "good condition" with a leg injury.
A wrecker driver at the scene, Roy Holcomb, called the wreck "the worst accident I've seen in my 20 years as a wrecker driver."
Chavez said there was a rise in the land near the accident scene and that because of it, "the driver of the station wagon apparently didn't have a chance to see the pickup truck crossing into his lane."
"It looked like the driver of the station wagon tried to swerve to the right as he came up the highway. He didn't have a chance to see the truck until it was too late."
"The vehicles were welded together at impact," Chavez said.
The station wagon caught fire, the officer said, but a passing truck driver stopped and extinguished the blaze.
Officers said two other persons also were killed in Sunday accidents on New Mexico highways.

Santa Fe New Mexican New Mexico 1973-07-23