Car crash kills prin­ci­pal, sto­ry­telling doc­tor passes, vet­eran hon­ored

The Taos News - - HISTORY - By Mary Beth Libbey

– 10 YEARS AGO – ‘In­ves­ti­ga­tion into cause of N.M. 68 fa­tal crash un­der­way’

By Chan­dra John­son Dec. 4, 2008

Chan­dra John­son fo­cused this ac­ci­dent story on David Weaver, the Taos Po­lice Depart­ment’s crash re­con­struc­tion­ist. (Weaver later served as Taos po­lice chief from 2013 to 2016.)

That’s be­cause this crash was un­usual in both its com­plex­ity and its heart-wrench­ing tragedy: Six cars piled up at Pi­lar on State Road 68. The crash killed beloved former Ran­chos Ele­men­tary prin­ci­pal Robert Be­navidez, 58, and his three-year-old grand­son An­gelo, sent 10 oth­ers to the hospi­tal, left three cars in flames at the side of the road and cre­ated a po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion that lasted 16 hours at the scene.

One wit­ness to the ac­ci­dent, Les­lie Gomez of Taos said, “The only thing I re­mem­ber is that it looked like a pin­wheel. There was no place for those cars to go.”

At the time of John­son’s re­port, not many de­tails were known as to what went wrong al­though Weaver told her, “Due to two ve­hi­cles try­ing to pass, a chain-re­ac­tion col­li­sion oc­curred.” Al­co­hol was not a fac­tor, he said.

John­son then went on to ex­plain the de­tailed job of the re­con­struc­tion­ist at the scene and for weeks after such a col­li­sion. As she put it, “To be a good re­con­struc­tion­ist, Weaver must be part pa­trol­man, part physi­cist.”

At the scene he must iden­tify, mea­sure and pho­to­graph ev­ery mark at the scene. “Skid marks are es­pe­cially re­veal­ing once Weaver has cal­cu­lated the fric­tion level of the road­way with a spe­cial scale,” she ex­plained. “From there Weaver will do an in­spec­tion of each ve­hi­cle in­volved, tak­ing paint trans­fers and mea­sure­ments that help him dis­cover the di­rec­tion ve­hi­cles were struck and how fast the ve­hi­cle was likely go­ing.”

For the math­e­ma­ti­cians, here’s an in­trigu­ing fact Weaver shared: “A min­i­mum speed for a ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent is cal­cu­lated as the square root of the length of the skid mark mul­ti­plied by other fac­tors, (such as) fric­tion level of the road and the num­ber of wheels that locked up be­fore im­pact.”

The take-away: Don’t try to pass on Pi­lar hill.

– 25 YEARS AGO – ‘Dr. Haw­ley says, ‘The end.’

By Kathy Cór­dova Dec. 2 1993

Dr. Robert L. Haw­ley’s obit­u­ary ran this week. He was chief pathol­o­gist at Holy Cross Hospi­tal, but ap­par­ently most Taoseños had known him as a sto­ry­teller since 1975 when he and his fam­ily moved here from Kansas City, Mis­souri.

He au­thored “13 Tales from Taos” in col­lab­o­ra­tion with his chil­dren, Sylvia and Richard. He told his sto­ries at the Har­wood Chil­dren’s Li­brary and the Taos Herb Shop for 18 years be­fore the li­brary was opened. His sto­ries in­cluded his orig­i­nals and clas­sic tales that he gave his own touch. He also lec­tured adults on the­matic sto­ry­telling at the Har­wood Li­brary.

He was an aux­il­iary mem­ber of the Her­manos Pen­i­tentes de Nue­stro Padre Je­sus Nazareno of San Fran­cisco de Asis Church in Ran­chos de Taos and walked the 100-mile pil­grim­age for vo­ca­tions for 25 years.

Born in Cincin­nati, Ohio he went to col­lege in Hawaii, med­i­cal school at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., and at the Univer­sity of Colorado. He worked in and taught medicine at health care fa­cil­i­ties

in Colorado and Kansas City and was a clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor at Univer­sity of New Mex­ico Med­i­cal School in Al­bu­querque. He worked part-time at Holy Cross un­til his death.

Sto­ry­telling is still a lively tra­di­tion in Taos, cel­e­brated ev­ery year at the Taos Sto­ry­telling Fes­ti­val spon­sored by SOMOS.

– 50 YEARS AGO – ‘Bronze Star for sol­dier’ Staff re­port

Nov. 28, 1968

It was to be only PFC John Paul Mon­dragon’s first Bronze Star when it was

an­nounced in The Taos News this week. He went on to earn two more Bronze Stars plus the Pur­ple Heart be­fore he came home from the Viet­nam War.

A mem­ber of Taos Pueblo, Mon­dragon had been in Viet­nam for less than two months when he dragged two wounded sol­diers to safety while un­der fire. He was serv­ing as part of the Army’s Com­pany A, 1st Bat­tal­ion, 5th In­fantry when his unit came un­der “in­tense” en­emy at­tack.

He left his bunker and went to the perime­ter to “en­gage “with the en­emy. It was then that he saw the wounded sol­diers. The award stated, “He con­tin­ued in this man­ner un­til he saw two wounded men ly­ing in an ex­posed area. With com­plete dis­re­gard for his own safety, he ex­posed him­self to dev­as­tat­ing en­emy fire as he ran to the men, ad­min­is­tered first aid and evac­u­ated them to safety.”

Mon­dragon was in Viet­nam nine months after the sur­prise Tet Of­fen­sive when North Viet­nam sur­prised the South Viet­namese and their Amer­i­can al­lies by launch­ing a sur­prise and widely co­or­di­nated at­tack dur­ing Viet­namese New Year Jan. 31, a time when the south was ex­pect­ing a cease fire. That cam­paign kicked off some of the most fe­ro­cious and deadly fight­ing of the con­tro­ver­sial war and in part spurred Pres­i­dent Lyn­don John­son to an­nounce he would not run for a sec­ond term in March 1968.

Back home, Mon­dragon later be­came part of Taos Pueblo’s Blue Lake Com­mem­o­ra­tion Color Guard only months be­fore his death in Septem­ber 2010.

File photo/Tina Larkin

Staff and par­ents mourn out­side of Ran­chos Ele­men­tary School in 2008 after learn­ing prin­ci­pal Robert Be­navidez had died in a car crash.

Photo cour­tesy Ed­die Knight

From left, Roger Claire Mc­Cord and John Paul Mon­dragon, 5th in­fantry reg­i­ment. Mon­dragon was awarded three bronze stars and a Pur­ple Heart be­fore he came home from Viet­nam to Taos Pueblo.

Photo cour­tesy Ed­die Knight

From left, John Mon­dragon, Roger C. Mc­Cord (KIA) and Alexan­der Peo­ples (KIA).

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