A Durango man died Friday in a freak automobile accident north of Aztec.
Ron Newton, 44, an employee of Brainstorm Internet, was pronounced dead at the scene after a tire smashed into the windshield of the vehicle in which he was riding.
The accident occurred about 1 p.m. on U.S. Highway 550, halfway between Aztec and the Colorado-New Mexico state line, said Phil Bryson of Durango, who was driving the BMW sport utility vehicle hit by the tire.
Bryson and Newton were traveling northbound on U.S. Highway 550 when a truck traveling southbound lost two left tires off its 30-foot-long trailer.
One tire jumped a concrete lane divider and went through the windshield of the BMW, striking Newton, the front-seat passenger, according to a news release from the San Juan County (N.M.) Sheriff's Office.
Bryson is owner of Brainstorm Internet and developer of the Crossroads building on Main Avenue.
Bryson was uninjured and walked away from the accident. He had minor cuts to the face.
"To have someone die right next to me is something I never thought I'd experience," he said Friday night. "It's just mind-boggling to me.
"All of a sudden, it was like this tire flying through the air and coming right at us."
Newton had a wife and children, Bryson said. He was a network engineer with Brainstorm for only a couple of months. Before that, he worked for FastTrack Communications, a telecommunications company that serves northwest New Mexico and western Colorado.
"I'm so sad for him and his wife," Bryson said. "He was an amazing guy. He was only at Brainstorm for a brief time, but he was brilliant, and we were happy to have him."
The truck was being driven by Ronnie Jacquez, 34, of Bloomfield. It was a 1-ton welding truck owned by Moberg Welding of Bloomfield. The trailer was hauling a John Deere backhoe.
Several drivers witnessed the accident.
Authorities had not issued any citations, pending an investigation.
In a brief interview Friday evening, San Juan County Undersheriff Mark McCloskey called it a "freak accident."
"A half-second either way and it probably would have had an entirely different outcome," he said.