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$80M judgment awarded in sand suffocation death

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:11 p.m. HST, Dec 10, 2013

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. » A judge has awarded nearly $80 million to the family of a New Mexico woman who died in 2002 when a tractor-trailer struck her car and buried it in sand, suffocating the woman as teachers and students at a nearby school tried to dig her out.

District Judge Shannon Bacon entered the judgment Monday to the estate of Laura Miera of Albuquerque and the 48-year-old woman's husband and daughter. It includes $60 million of punitive damages.

Bacon entered the judgment against Albuquerque Redi-Mix and another company and owners of both companies, John and Barbara Quintana, the Albuquerque Journal reported. It was an Albuquerque Redi-Mix truck that crashed into Miera's car after the truck exited Interstate 40.

Miera had just dropped off her 14-year-old daughter at Jimmy Carter Middle School when the semi hit her vehicle, pushing it against the curb and rolling over onto it. Miera was pinned in her car while sand poured down on her.

Counselors, teachers and students on their way to the school frantically tried to dig out Miera by hand, and one counselor held Miera's hand until it stopped moving. Miera was pronounced dead about an hour later, after heavy equipment was used to lift the tractor-trailer.

According to the lawsuit, the semi had an expired registration, three brakes out of adjustment and a driver with two DWI charges before he was hired by Redi-Mix.

In a response to the suit, the Quintanas denied violating any state or federal regulations and said the accident and injuries it caused resulted from the action of others.

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