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Santa Fe police say tipsy trucker tipped tanker

December 15, 2018

Alcohol, roundabouts and water tankers just don’t mix.

Julian Barela learned that the hard way, police reports say, when he tipped a water tanker belonging to an Albuquerque-based construction company while speeding down Beckner Road on Santa Fe’s south side with a cab full of empty beer and liquor bottles, guns and drug paraphernalia.

Officers also discovered Barela, 47, was driving the tanker with a suspended license and has a prior DWI conviction, police reports show. He’s facing a number of criminal charges, including driving under the influence and negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Salls Brothers Construction, the company that owns the truck and employs Barela, according to police reports, did not reply to a call placed after its noon closing time seeking comment on whether officials at the business knew of Barela’s suspended license and past DWI.

According to police documents, officers responded to the semitrailer crash on Beckner and Wellness Way — near Presbyterian Santa Fe Medical Center — around 4 p.m. Thursday and arrived to find a semi hauling a water tank flipped on its passenger side.

A witness at the crash told police the truck was “going very fast,” according to the reports, and had flipped when it was attempting to go through the roundabout.

The witness, who spoke with The New Mexican on Friday but asked not to be named, said he was approaching the roundabout from Wellness Way when the speeding truck pulled into the loop. Doubting he had time to get in front of the truck, the man stopped to let it pass — and then watched it tip.

“I would have been in front of him, and I thought, ‘No, there’s no way.’ … He was going pretty fast,” the witness said. “It wouldn’t have been able to stop. If I would have gotten into the roundabout, I probably would have gotten hit.”

The man thinks Barela might have tapped the inside curb of the roundabout, which shifted the water load in the truck, causing the tanker to tip over the outside edge of the roundabout and flip on its side.

“I’m just glad it was water and not gasoline or something,” the man said.

Passengers in nearby cars stopped to try to get the driver out of the truck, the man said.

Police arrived at the scene, and an ambulance took Barela to Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, the report says.

An officer who poked around inside the cab of the truck to find registration and insurance paperwork wrote in the report that the cab reeked of alcohol. Littered around the truck, police said, were an empty bottle of Fireball whiskey and three empty bottles of Budweiser.

Inside was an even bigger haul: Reports say police found two handguns, more bottles of Bud and Mickey’s malt liquor, a baggie of marijuana with a pipe, and two other blue glass pipes used to smoke methamphetamine.

Barela told police at the hospital — where officers say he smelled of alcohol — that he didn’t remember the crash or how fast he was going. He agreed to have his blood-alcohol level tested, police wrote, and was left at the hospital for treatment.

A reporter was unable to reach Barela for comment Friday night.

Police closed at least one lane of Beckner Road while they cleared the accident, police Lt. Michele Williams told The New Mexican on Thursday. According to a towing report, the water truck was heavily damaged.

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