New Mexico Negligent for Arizona Man’s Death on Icy Road

April 7, 2008

A six-person jury found the New Mexico Department of Transportation negligent in a crash that killed an Arizona man, saying the agency failed to make an icy stretch of Interstate 40 safe and should pay $3.55 million to the man’s family.

The jury awarded the damages in the April 10, 2005, death of Philip Chaky of Surprise, Ariz., the Albuquerque Journal reported in a copyright story. Chaky died when his truck and horse trailer flipped on a bridge and crashed into a guard rail east of Gallup.

“My thoughts are now that Phil’s death is not in vain, and I hope the New Mexico Department of Transportation will use this to prevent other deaths,” said Chaky’s widow, Tamara Chaky.

Two other people were killed in a separate crash the same day on another bridge about four miles away on I-40 in icy conditions.

At the time Philip Chaky was killed, he was trying to avoid a car that had overturned after skidding on ice, authorities have said. He hit a patch of black ice, causing his truck and trailer to flip and crash in front of state police who had responded to the other crash.

The family’s attorneys contended the Transportation Department failed to prepare for icy conditions. Attorney Carolyn Nichols said the agency didn’t have enough workers laying salt and cinders on the road and that one employee was working when several should have been on the job that morning.

The department’s attorney, M. Karen Kilgore, argued that Chaky was going too fast for the road conditions and that it was unfair to blame “hardworking” employees.

“They are miracle workers. But they cannot prevail over Mother Nature every time,” she said.

Source: Albuquerque Journal.

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