A Farmington man who crossed the centerline in his F-250 on U.S. Highway 160/491 about 3 miles northeast of Towaoc – slamming head-on into a small sedan – will likely face charges of vehicular assault and driving under the influence.
Thaddeus Ponder, 41, hit the silver Chevrolet Impala shortly before 3 p.m. Tuesday, according to a witness.
Ponder, 41, was passing traffic in a work zone, according to Michael Vitez of Farmington, who was several vehicles behind the Ponder’s F-250.
“A mile-and-a-half back, he passed me on the shoulder. He sideswiped a guardrail. I thought he was going to take the front of my van off. I was going 65, and he passed me like I was standing still,” Vitez said.
State Patrol Sgt. James Saunders also said there was a report that Ponder hit a car in Cortez shortly before the crash.
Ponder was arrested for suspected vehicular assault and driving under the influence, the State Patrol said. Before the accident, police received a call of a suspected drunken driver in a vehicle that matched Ponder’s truck, said Trooper Josh Lewis.
Ponder is being held at the Montezuma County Detention Center, said 22nd Judicial District Attorney Will Furse.
The man driving the silver Impala, Kenneth R. Todd, 71, of Cortez, suffered serious injuries and was flown by helicopter to San Juan Regional Medical Center in Farmington, according to the State Patrol.
Todd suffered a fractured rib, a pelvis injury, a spleen injury, a broken femur, and a punctured lung. He remains hospitalized in serious but stable condition, according to the hospital.
Ponder was taken by ambulance to Southwest Memorial Hospital in Cortez, and has since been released. Todd was wearing a seat belt, and Ponder was not, according to the accident report.
Saunders said Ponder was traveling southwest, crossed the centerline of traffic in a work zone and hit the silver Impala driven by Todd head-on.
Because of the potential felony charges, it is up to the district attorney to file charges against Ponder, Furse said. The case is being reviewed for charges. A court date for filing of charges is set for 2 p.m. Oct. 30.
At a bond hearing in Montezuma County Court on Wednesday, Ponder, in a wheelchair, appeared via a video feed from the jail.
Montezuma County Judge JenniLynn Lawrence set a $75,000 cash surety bond for Ponder. She rejected a request by the Ponder’s attorney for a personal recognizance bond, citing Ponder’s past criminal record and severity of the incident.
During the court bond hearing, Furse said Ponder has a criminal record in New Mexico and Colorado, including robbery, assault, parole violations and sexual assault. Ponder is also facing a DUI trial in San Juan County, New Mexico, Furse said, and was driving without a license.
Based on allegations, “he is a risk to the community and a flight risk,” Furse said. “The traffic crash resulted in serious bodily injury. The victim is lucky to be alive.”
The call reporting the crash came at 2:55 p.m. Tuesday, Saunders said.
Another eyewitness, DJ Ewing, who is from Louisiana and was headed to Texas, also said Ponder was trying to pass traffic in the work zone.
“He passed everybody. He was smoking,” said Ewing, who was parked on the side of the highway when the red pickup came through.