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Update: Man seriously injured in crash on U.S. Highway 491

Driver cited for careless driving

A New Mexico man was in Southwest Memorial Hospital with serious injuries Thursday night after driving off of U.S. Highway 491 just west of Cortez near the IFA Country store.

Michael Benally, 45, of Shiprock, jumped the curb of U.S. 491 in his Ford F-550 and drove into a ditch, hitting a rock, a speed limit sign and a highway sign, according to three witnesses, said Colorado State Trooper Tonja Cowan.

The three witnesses were driving on the highway at the time.

Benally’s injuries included several broken bones, Cowan said.

The front axle of the truck tore off in the crash, the state trooper said. The truck had New Mexico license plates.

Officials do not suspect drugs or alcohol were involved, but they were unsure what caused Benally to drive off of the road, Cowan said. He was cited for careless driving.

State troopers were unable to obtain Benally’s account of the incident, as the “adrenaline of the crash and the injuries hit him hard,” Cowan said.

“We don’t believe he was wearing a seat belt,” Cowan said.

Southbound U.S. 491 at the scene was temporarily closed after the crash, which occurred about 5 p.m. Thursday.