Crash investigation still in early stages

By Tony Parra

A week after a car accident killed two area teenagers, the others involved are trying to live on.
State police officials said Aaron LaRue, 17, of Clovis and Dathan Garcia, 17, of Tucumcari were killed when the five teenagers drove through an open field at a high rate of speed, near Rogers, south of Portales.
The driver of the 1999 Ford pick-up, Travis Belcher, 17, was transported to Covenant Medical Center in Lubbock were he was listed in fair condition while Joni Brakebill, 17, was transported to Clovis’ Plains Regional Medical Center in stable condition on Sunday night, according to the press release from the state police.
Layton Belcher, Travis’ older brother, was listed in critical condition on Sunday night at the Lubbock Covenant Medical Center.
The pickup was traveling at a high rate of speed and went airborne across Roosevelt Road 20 and struck a three-foot high dirt embankment on the south side of the roadway. The vehicle came to rest in a field south of Roosevelt Road 20, according to the press release. LaRue and Garcia were riding in the bed of the pickup. The state police said charges are pending.
“We are still investigating, but there’s nothing new to report,” State Police Sergeant Jeff Vick said on Friday. “We still have a lot of work to do. We need to talk to the people in the vehicle.”
Tom Clark, Layton and Travis’ grandfather, said their mother Tracy and father Alan were with Layton at the Lubbock Covenant Medical Center. Clark said he spoke with Layton on the telephone on Thursday. He said Layton was in intensive care for five days but that Layton walked around on Thursday.
“It’s been very traumatic to have two sons hurt,” Clark said about Tracy and Alan. “They’ve talked to the parents of the other teenagers. They’ve been in contact with them.”
Clark said Garcia’s funeral took place on Thursday in Tucumcari and that Travis Belcher was a pall bearer for LaRue on Friday. Clark said Travis was dismissed from the hospital earlier in the week and sustained bumps, bruises and a cut across his face.
Clark said Layton suffered two concussions when he hit his head. Clark said he spoke with his daughter, Tracy, after the accident and stayed in touch.
“Overall they (Layton and Travis) have improved a lot,” Clark said. “They (Layton and Travis) understand how fortunate they are and other people understand how fortunate they are.”
Layton Belcher graduated from Dora High School in 2003 and his younger brother Travis is a senior at Dora. LaRue was a Dora senior as well. Jim Reed, Dora Schools superintendent, said school was canceled on Friday so fellow students could attend LaRue’s funeral services at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Portales.
This is the second time the Dora seniors have had to endure a fatal automobile accident within the span of nine months. Clayton Stokes died in a vehicle accident in February.
“It’s been extremely tough for the entire school,” Reed said about the two tragedies. “It’s been tough on all of the kids at Dora and those who were close to them (Stokes and LaRue). I told the parents (LaRue’s parents) what was appropriate at the time and offered them my support.”
Reed said he spoke with LaRue’s father at the funeral on Friday and saw Layton at Lubbock Covenant Hospital. Portales High School rodeo coach Bobby Grimes said he was going to be visiting Brakebill at Clovis’ Plains Regional Medical Center on Saturday.
Grimes said he spoke with Brakebill’s mother, Christy Brakebill, after the car accident. Reed said she suffered a broken leg in the accident.
“In talking to her mother, she said her heart hurts more than her leg,” Grimes said. “It’s a tough deal to see a lot of those kids at the funeral on Friday morning.”
Brakebill played on the Portales girls basketball team last season. Layton and Travis Belcher were on the Dora state championship basketball team in 2003.
A final determination on the vehicle accident will not be made for a while, according to Vick.
“It’s very early, too early to draw a conclusion,” Vick said. “I’m going to say we (state police) won’t be looking at conclusions for a minimum of two weeks. It could possibly take a month.”