Dexter man dies in freak accident

July 16, 2011 • Local News

The remnants [auth] of a barn on Thompson Camp, Dexter, Friday. (Mark Wilson Photo)

A Dexter man was killed Thursday night after a severe gust of wind blew the roof off his barn and stuck him in the chest, authorities say. He died shortly afterward at Eastern New Mexico Medical Center.

Chaves County Sheriff Rob Coon said William Thompson, 69, was walking outside on his property, Thompson Camp on Old Chisum Trail in Dexter, between an old white barn and several horse corrals when a microburst, or a column of sinking air similar to a tornado, struck the area around 6:30 p.m., and blew the tin roof off the barn. A large piece of metal struck Thompson, doing “major damage to his chest.”

“It’s one of those unfortunate instances of being at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Coon said. “I don’t know what he was doing out there, but he happened to be there.”

Coon says Thompson’s wife found him and called 911. Thompson was still alive when authorities responded, Coon said, but passed away “a short time after he arrived” at the hospital.

Neighbors say the damage to the barn was extensive.

“When I got home at 7, I thought, ‘Was there a tornado, or what?’” Jacob Aguilar, who lives directly across Thompson Camp, said. “It’s crazy.”

The sudden windstorm also knocked down power lines, which wrapped live electric wires around a passing car, Dexter Fire Chief Justin Powell said. The man in the car was safely evacuated, Powell added.

Meteorologists with the National Weather Service said the Albuquerque field office was flooded with calls from concerned residents wondering if a tornado had hit. Chuck Jones, a NWS meteorologist in Albuquerque, said it was determined to be a microburst with up to 60 mph wind gusts that lasted less than a minute.

“We’re assuming it was a microburst from a nearby thunderstorm that just happened to hit that small area,” Jones said, adding that it was too small to be seen on the radar.

Jones noted that eastern New Mexico is prone to microbursts, which usually last just a few seconds, but have the strength to uproot trees and houses. Contributing factors to the phenomenon are climate, flat land and geographical location as part of the westward extension of Tornado Alley.

“It’s certainly not unusual for southeast New Mexico,” he said.

The last microburst to hit the Roswell area was in May, and that storm caused damage to a Roswell Fire Department fire engine and toppled a traffic light. Coon says the last microburst that caused substantial damage in Roswell was about five or six years ago that devastated several mobile homes. He says this is the first one he can recall to hit Dexter.

“This is the first one I remember happening out in that neck of the woods,” he said, adding, “It’s kind of like a mini tornado hit. They don’t last very long. They just hit and dissipate.”

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