The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

'Just a boom, buddy,' as truck hits house

 

David Grieder

No one was injured when a truck crashed into a house on Sandia Drive.

CLOVIS — Frank Conte was watching overtime of a basketball game with his family when a truck barreled directly into their living room Tuesday night in Clovis.

“Just a boom, buddy,” he told The News. “Before that I saw the headlights coming in, I saw it bump off the driveway.”

Conte said he’s lived over 20 years in the house at the end of Sandia Drive, at its intersection with Harrison Avenue. This was the first time any heavy machinery crashed through the wall.

His first reaction was to get his wife and son to safety. The three of them were watching the end of the Cleveland-Toronto game when the incident happened, close to 9 p.m. Normally their son in college sits in the recliner nearest the truck’s point of entry, so they were glad he was in Albuquerque on Tuesday night instead.

“The fireplace saved our lives,” Conte said of the structure that absorbed most of the damage, but inside the house, the room was littered with “debris, bricks, glass, sheetrock.”

Nic Conte, 17, was seated on the couch directly opposite the house’s front door and fireplace at the time of impact. He had “a few scratches, but nothing serious,” after the debris rained down around him, he said.

The truck’s driver took off on foot, leaving the vehicle with its front lodged in the Conte’s residence.

Fire Department Battalion Chief Joel Gershon said the truck had been reported stolen.

Clovis Police Capt. Roman Romero said officers deployed a K9 unit to track the driver, but the suspect was still not located or identified as of Wednesday afternoon.

“Callers relayed the truck was driving at a high rate of speed, their estimate was 55 MPH,” Romero wrote in a message to The News. “If the driver is identified, they will be facing charges including reckless driving and leaving the scene of a crash.”

Inside the house, the occupants were only a body’s length away from taking far graver damage. Apart from Nic’s scratches, he said there were no other injuries.

A religious fixture hanging directly above the fireplace mantle broke in the collision, but a fragment settled prominently atop the rubble, beside the detached Ford logo and grill from the truck.

“I walked in to survey the damage and noticed in all the damage Jesus’ face in all the brick,” wrote Conte’s friend Russell Trollinger in a message to The News.

“The only thing you can say is that God was sitting in that house,” said Allen Epperly, one of a dozen or so friends, family or neighbors standing by the Conte front lawn watching firefighters work Tuesday night. “No ifs, ands or buts about it.”

David Grieder

The Conte family was watching a basketball game in their living room when the crash happened.

Firefighters left the house around 11:30 p.m. after having the truck towed away and pulling down what remained of the brick chimney, leaving a few aluminum air-powered struts for support, according to Fire Chief Mike Nolen.

The sound of those bricks tumbling from the roof resembled what the family heard some hours earlier, said Kim Conte.

“It was that same sound, how brick sounds when it crumbles,” she said. “But about 10 times louder.”

Frank Conte and his family still stayed the night at the place, and he was up early Wednesday morning to clear away the remaining debris. By afternoon he and some help had loaded their second trailer of stone to be carted away. Sifting through remains, they found the family’s coffee table in pieces.

“I was wondering where that went,” Kim Conte said.

 

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