Family of Woman Who Suffocated in Sand to Get $80M

Laura Miera died in 2002 after a tractor-trailer struck her car, buried it in sand

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Dec 11, 2013 10:21 AM CST

(Newser) – A judge has awarded nearly $80 million to the family of a 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 frantically tried to dig her out. Laura Miera had just dropped off her 14-year-old daughter at Jimmy Carter Middle School and was waiting at a traffic light when the semi exited a freeway and came barreling toward her. The Albuquerque Redi-Mix truck pushed her car to the curb, it rolled, and Miera was trapped as the semi's open load of sand poured on top of her.

Teachers, students, and others on their way to the school tried to dig out the 48-year-old woman by hand. One counselor tried to comfort Miera as the car filled with sand. "It was devastating," said Jacob Vigil, the attorney who has represented Miera's family in their 10-year legal fight. "The school counselor was holding her hand, praying while the sand just 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 the lawsuit, the semi involved in the crash had an expired registration, three brakes out of adjustment, and a driver with two DWI charges before he was hired by Albuquerque Redi-Mix. The judgment is against Albuquerque Redi-Mix; Quintana Enterprises Inc.; the companies' owners, John and Barbara Quintana; and truck driver Truman Bahe.

This 2002 photo provided by plaintiff's attorney Vigil Law Firm shows a tractor-trailer that overturned, burying it in sand and suffocating the woman inside, in Albuquerque, N.M.
This 2002 photo provided by plaintiff's attorney Vigil Law Firm shows a tractor-trailer that overturned, burying it in sand and suffocating the woman inside, in Albuquerque, N.M.   ((AP Photo/Courtesy Vigil Law Firm))
This undated photo providedby plaintiff's attorney Vigil Law Firm shows Laura Miera and her daughter Cassandra.
This undated photo providedby plaintiff's attorney Vigil Law Firm shows Laura Miera and her daughter Cassandra.   ((AP Photo/Courtesy Vigil Law Firm))
This 2002 photo provided by plaintiff's attorney Vigil Law Firm shows a tractor-trailer that overturned, burying a car in sand and suffocating the woman inside, in Albuquerque, N.M.
This 2002 photo provided by plaintiff's attorney Vigil Law Firm shows a tractor-trailer that overturned, burying a car in sand and suffocating the woman inside, in Albuquerque, N.M.   ((AP Photo/Courtesy Vigil Law Firm))
This undated photo released by plaintiff's attorney Vigil Law Firm shows Laura Miera and her daughter Cassandra. In 2002, a tractor-trailer overturned, burying Laura Miera's car in sand and suffocating her inside, in Albuquerque, N.M.  On Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, a judge awarded nearly $80 million to the family...
This undated photo released by plaintiff's attorney Vigil Law Firm shows Laura Miera and her daughter Cassandra. In 2002, a tractor-trailer overturned, burying Laura Miera's car in sand and suffocating...   ((AP Photo/Courtesy Vigil Law Firm))
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