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Seizure medication suspected in two Farmington crash deaths

Both women in car are killed; truck driver says he takes medication, works for a company that is contracted by Hilcorp Energy
A red passenger car struck head-on by an oil field truck at 2:45 p.m. Feb. 2 on Pinon Hills Boulevard. Both women in the car died.

The man arrested in a head-on crash Friday that killed two Kirtland women is suspected of DWI, according to the Farmington Police Department.

Ambert Teasyatwho, 44, of Farmington, reportedly told police he was on prescription drugs around 2:45 p.m. Feb. 2, while driving his “oil field-type” work truck into a passenger vehicle on Pinon Hills Boulevard, according to the statement of probable cause.

Teasyatwho told police “he was driving from Aztec to La Plata Highway to check his wells,” and that he worked for Hilcorp Energy Co. He was eastbound on Pinon Hills Boulevard when he crossed the median and struck a “red passenger car” in the westbound lane, the Farmington Police Department said in a report.

The crash killed Cheyenne Yazzie, 24 of Kirtland, and Kimberly Lowe, 30, of Kirtland. Both women were in the passenger car.

The Tri-City Record called a representative of Hilcorp Energy Co. to verify whether the truck belonged to the company and whether Teasyatwho was an employee at the time of the crash. A representative stated that Teasyatwho was working for a company with which Hilcorp contracts, and the truck did not belong to Hilcorp.

This GMC Sierra reportedly was driven by Ambert Teasyatwho when it crossed the median on Pinon Hills Boulevard and struck a passenger car head-on. The tires of the overturned passenger car are in the background.

Witnesses told police they attempted to help Teasyatwho, but he “appeared upset, was yelling,” and was “thrashing around.” They “described him as having a blank stare.” He reportedly was “swaying and used the vehicle to maintain his balance,” according to the statement of probable cause.

Police first thought Teasyatwho might be intoxicated, but they “did not smell the odor of an intoxicating beverage coming from” him, but he was unable to complete a walk-and-turn and a one-leg stand, court records state.

Teasyatwho denied being under the influence of alcohol, drugs or medications, and reportedly told police “he was safe to be driving.” But after persistent questioning, Teasyatwho reportedly told police that he was taking a prescription medication for seizures twice each day and that he “smokes marijuana on weekends,” according to the statement of probable cause.

New Mexico's statutes and regulations do not specify epilepsy as a basis for denying a license.

“The New Mexico Drivers manual recommends that a person with epilepsy have frequent checkups, practice careful management of medicines and be stable and seizure-free for up to six months” before filling out a driver’s license application, according to information obtained from the Epilepsy Foundation.

When it comes to commercial driving, a person must be “off anti-seizure medication” and be seizure-free for 10 years to qualify for a commercial driver’s license, the Epilepsy Foundation states.

The seizure medication that Teasyatwho reportedly takes, causes “dizziness, drowsiness, tiredness and weakness with a warning to avoid driving,” according to drugs.com.

A Farmington police officer oversees a fatal collision that happened near the intersection of College Boulevard and Pinon Hills Boulevard. Debra Mayeux/Tri-City Record

The Farmington Police Department stated in its report that Teasyatwho’s breath analysis test showed zero for alcohol. Police also secured a search warrant for a blood test, and a sample was taken at San Juan Regional Medical Center.

The blood sample was sent to the state crime laboratory, and according to Police Spokeswoman Shanice Gonzales it could take “months” to get the results.

This crash was not Teasyatwho’s first brush with the law. Court records show he has an extensive criminal history dating to 1998, when he was charged with his first DWI. Since 1998, Teasyatwho was charged with three additional DWIs, one in 2001 that resulted in an collision that caused injury to other parties. He received probation in that case, according to court records.

Teasyatwho was charged with assault on a peace officer in 2005, and he pleaded guilty to that charge. Then, in 2007, he was charged with disorderly conduct and assault on a peace officer, which was dismissed, according to court records.

In 2015, Teasyatwho was charged with battery against a household member, which was dismissed. Two years later, in 2017, he pleaded no contest to aggravated battery and was sentenced to probation, court records state.

Teasyatwho also faced multiple traffic-related charges from 2001 to 2018 and seven domestic violence related charges from 2015 to 2017. He was not charged with any other crimes until his arrest late last week.

Teasyatwho is being held in the San Juan County Detention Center, and the San Juan County District Attorney’s Office filed an expedited motion for pretrial detention, requesting that he be kept in jail.

“Based on the serious nature of the office and the defendant’s history, the State believes no viable conditions of release exist to ensure the safety of the community at this time,” the document states.

A detention hearing has been set for 11 a.m. Feb. 12 in District Judge Karen Townsend’s courtroom.