August 6, 2022, Silvery City Daily News, by Jordan Archunde
Around 7:15 Friday evening, Lt. Gov. Howie Morales was on his way from Doña Ana County to Las Vegas for a speech at New Mexico Highlands University when he witnessed a large rental truck toppling over on I-25 just south of Truth or Consequences.
“The Ryder truck had flipped over right into the median,” Morales told the Daily Press. “At that point, other people were pulling over — some were rushing to help whoever the driver was. I pulled over and I made sure to get off and go help, and it was pouring rain. I think what happened is the wind just probably flipped over that vehicle, because it was very top heavy.”
Drivers seeking to help initially attempted to break the truck’s windshield, which they quickly realized would injure the driver, so they kicked out the back window of the truck’s cab — eventually freeing him.
“As we were there trying to extract him from the vehicle, I heard a voice — a very distinctive voice,” Morales said. “I saw as he was coming out it was John [Baumberger] from Silver City. He’s very involved with the Kiwanis Club — very active in the community, so I’ve known him for years. My heart sank, because it was not only a person who was in need, but also a person from my hometown who I know. I was able to bring him out and just calm him down, making sure he was OK — letting him know I was there with him.”
Police and EMS arrived on the scene rather quickly, Morales said, adding that it was gratifying to see so many people willing to jump in and help out in a critical moment.
He said Supervisory Forestry Technician Billy Trujillo, who works with Baumberger at the Forest Service, reached out to Morales after the crash to let him know that Baumberger is doing OK, while currently in the hospital receiving medical attention for his injuries.
“He was banged up, his arm was really injured — I think that he had some damage because he was stuck in the seatbelt,” Morales said. “That caused some damage, but of course it saved his life, too. So, I’m very grateful that he was wearing his seatbelt. He was able to talk, when I was able to help him to the vehicle he was definitely limping.”
Morales reminded people that if they come upon an accident, they should slow down and move over to the farthest lane. He said that as they were helping Baumberger on Saturday, cars were driving by rather quickly on the inner lane immediately adjacent to the overturned truck, which sent rocks and debris flying toward those assisting. He said it is important to not put law enforcement, first responders or good samaritans who are assisting at the scene of an accident in danger.