Updated: March 22, 2013 2:16PM
CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) — Hours after a fatal crash, police in New Mexico say they arrived at the scene to find the wrecked SUV’s rims, tires and battery had been stolen as the victim remained pinned underneath the vehicle.
The accident on a little-used, dirt road happened either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, killing 26-year-old Steven Roy Reese, Carlsbad police said. The victim apparently lost control of his 1996 Ford Explorer, and the Carlsbad Current-Argus reports the medical investigator determined Reese was dead for at least eight hours before police found him. Further details surrounding the accident remained unclear Friday.
The act of removing the items was both illegal and extremely insensitive, said Carlsbad Police Lt. Jennifer Moyers, and the person who stole the vehicle parts could definitely face criminal charges. The crash was the second in a week in which theft apparently took place at an accident site.
Last weekend, a family relocating from California to Texas were involved in a wreck on Interstate 40 near Albuquerque and lost possessions worth thousands of dollars. Family members were being treated at a hospital for injuries and said authorities failed to secure the crash site.
The family - Keith and Amanda Tucker and their three young children - were in a truck towing a trailer of possessions from Sonora, Calif., to Rosser, Texas, when a tired blew out last Saturday.
Many of the Tuckers’ items were retrieved by deputies and a passer-by who took items to the sheriff’s office, but the family says other belongings worth up to $15,000 disappeared. Items missing include toys, Christmas ornaments, a safe, ammunition and a knife collection.
The Tuckers said the crash scene apparently was unguarded from sunup Saturday until midmorning Sunday. Bernalillo County Sheriff’s spokesman Aaron Williamson said he could not comment on the theft because an internal investigation was under way.
Authorities did not immediately return phone calls to The Associated Press on Friday for additional comment.
In the Carlsbad area, the spot where the fatal crash happened is not at all well-traveled, so it’s not unusual that police weren’t called immediately after the accident, Moyers said.
“But typically when we have something like this happen, people call in right away. It’s terrible,” Moyers said of the thief who she believes may have found the car lying on its side during the night.
Carlsbad police had no leads on suspects Friday morning. Moyers said the crash site was about a half mile south of Lea Street.
“We don’t have any idea. It probably was some time in the middle of the night. We could really use some help from the public if there is anybody with information,” Moyers said.