Residents of Mesilla honored after rescuing man from burning car


MESILLA – Jim Langell didn’t see the crash as he got ready for bed, but heard the sound of a truck crashing into a pecan tree.

At around the same time, Arely Iracheta was driving down Avenida de Mesilla, near Calle Del El Paso. She saw flames erupt from a truck wrapped around a pecan tree and heard a horn sound.

As Langell and Iracheta converged on the burning truck, they saw an unconscious man inside. Langell said he could hear sirens ringing in the pecan plantation, but he feared the worst.

“We just couldn’t wait for the rescue teams,” Langell said. “It would have been too late.

Iracheta ran to the other side of the truck and tried to break the window. They ended up opening the door. Meanwhile, flames erupted from under the dashboard and windshield.

Langell, Iracheta and another neighbor pulled the unconscious man out of the burning vehicle as the car caught fire. Officials said Langell and Iracheta’s actions saved his life.

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On Monday, Langell and Iracheta were honored by the city of Mesilla for their heroism. Each received a certificate of nomination and posed for a photo with the police.

“You have made a decision that will forever change the life of another,” Enrique Salas, of Marshal de Mesilla’s office, said at the awards ceremony.

Due to the yard

Danny Garcia, Mesilla Marshal’s office detective and crime scene investigator, said the crash happened just after midnight on May 18. In a Facebook post, he wrote that Lucas Hodgson plowed a 2009 Ford Ranger in a pecan tree.

Lucas Hodgson's truck at a pecan plantation in Mesilla after firefighters put out the flames on May 18, 2021.

Garcia said the crash happened after Hodgson drove against the tide. Hodgson hit a center midline on Avenida De Mesilla, bounced off a curb and flew away. The truck then passed through a chain link fence before traveling another 52 feet and colliding with a pecan tree.

After the rescue, first responders transported Hodgson to MountainView Regional Medical Center. He was then airlifted to El Paso University Medical Center, according to Garcia.

Hodgson is still recovering from his injuries, according to Garcia. The accident happened the day before Hodgson’s court appearance.

Two weeks before the crash, Mesilla Marshals charged Hodgson with receiving and possessing stolen checks, forgery, identity theft and conspiracy to commit a felony.

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Mesilla Marshals said Hodgson and another attempted to cash a personal check by pretending to be someone else. They provided false IDs but failed to convince the bank tellers and were arrested. Hodgson was due to return to court in July.

Aftermath of the accident

The accident and the ensuing car fire took place at the pecan plantation owned by Dylan and Samantha Simpson’s family. Samantha Simpson said the incident left a lasting mark.

When the truck collided with the pecan tree on May 18, 2021, it split open on the truck and killed the tree.

“It killed our 60-year-old pecan tree who was producing around $ 200 a year,” she said.

From the accident to the fire, Simpson said his family incurred significant costs as a result of the crash.

“We need to fix our fence and have the soil professionally removed and disposed of because it has been contaminated with chemicals,” she said. “We need to clean up all the debris that has flown all over the field. We need to fix all the areas where people had to cross the field to put out the fire and rescue the driver.”

For rescuers Langell and Iracheta, showing up at the ceremony in honor of their actions had different meanings.

Langell, a federal public defender, told the Sun-News he wanted to show his three children something positive in the community.

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“It’s important that we all come together and help each other,” Langell said.

Iracheta, a stay-at-home mom, said the experience rekindled a passion. She said she had always been interested in working on an ambulance. His actions after the accident proved to him that it could be done.

Justin Garcia is a public safety reporter for the Las Cruces Sun-News. He can be contacted at [email protected] or on Twitter at @ Just516garc


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