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New Mexico Judge Awards Family $80 Million in Sand Suffocation Case

A New Mexico judge awarded close to $80 million to the family of a New Mexico woman who was killed in 2002 when she was buried alive in sand that fell from a tractor-trailer after it struck her car. Laura Miera, an Albuquerque resident, was suffocated as teachers and students at a nearby school desperately attempted to pull her out of the sand. Miera had just dropped off her fourteen-year-old daughter at the nearby middle school and was sitting at a traffic light when the truck exited Interstate 40 and came quickly at her.

The truck, which was owned by Albuquerque Redi-Mix, shoved Meira’s car to the curb, the truck rolled over, and Miera became trapped as the semi’s open load of sand dumped down on her. Teachers, students, and other bystanders attempted to dig Miera out by her hand and one counselor attempted to comfort Miera as her car filled up with sand. Jacob Vigil, the attorney who represented the Miera family throughout their ten-year legal battle, stated, “It was devastating. The school counselor was holding her hand, praying while the sand rose above her head, and the counselor just kept saying ‘Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.’ She squeezed for a while until she died.”

According to information that came out during the case, the truck involved in the crash was operating with an expired registration, three brakes out of adjustment, and a driver who had faced two DWI charges prior to being hired by Albuquerque Redi-Mix. Although the judgment will never replace Miera, Vigil hopes it will lead to tougher regulations and legitimate consequences for trucking companies that are cited or fined for failing to maintain safe operations.

Judge awards $80 million in sand suffocation death, December 10, 2013

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