FARMINGTON, N.M. — A 21-year-old woman died when a game of car surfing went wrong — one of more than a half dozen deaths so far this year.
Wilberta Becenti of Nageezi, N.M., had been standing on a vehicle as its driver rode over rough dirt roads in the Dunes Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Area about 1½ miles south of Farmington, said Lt. Kyle Lincoln, a San Juan County Sheriff's Office detective. The incident occurred around 4:30 a.m. MT Sunday.
Becenti was intoxicated when she fell off, Lincoln said. The sheriff's office also is investigating whether the driver was intoxicated; no charges were filed as of Monday in connection with the death.
Last month in Omaha, Neb., a 14-year-old girl, Desire Anzona of Omaha, fell off the hood of her friend's Jeep on Sept. 16 as it turned a corner, reported KETV-TV, Omaha. Desire is expected to recover from her skull fracture, but her 16-year-old friend was cited for reckless driving.
In Columbia Heights, Minn., Andrew Green, 17, knows he's lucky to be alive. Lying on his stomach and holding the front grille of a friend's car, he fell off April 12 and hit the pavement. The injury to his head forced doctors to remove part of his skull and put him into a medically induced coma for a month, reported KMSP-TV, Minneapolis-St. Paul.
“If I ever have the chance to tell someone or stop someone, I want to take that chance," Andrew said as he headed home from the hospital June 2. "I don't want anyone to end up like this, and there is a possibility they could end up even worse than this.”
He faces continuing therapy and more surgery. At the time of his hospital discharge, his headaches still were so severe that it hurt to pick his head up off a pillow.
More often, young people die as they attempt to turn a moving vehicle into a surfboard and fall off where no water can cushion their tumble. Among the deaths this year:
• Grand Junction, Colo.: Brandon Lovett, 19, of Grand Junction died June 15, two days after he received blunt-force head injuries when he fell off the trunk of a vehicle going less than 40 mph. It was not immediately apparent whether the 19-year-old woman who was driving was charged in the incident, The (Grand Junction) Daily Sentinel reported.
• Albuquerque: Anthony Baldonado, 11, of Albuquerque died June 11 as he tried to jump on the back of a Jeep Grand Cherokee. The 16-year-old who was driving apparently didn't realize that Anthony was clinging onto the SUV, made an abrupt turn and the boy was thrown from the Jeep, reported KRQE-TV, Albuquerque.
• Aurora, Ill.: Stephen Woodcock, 17, of St. Charles, Ill., died May 16, three days after he fell off the passenger-side running board of an SUV in his high school parking lot while his 18-year-old friend was driving and turned left, the Chicago Tribune reported. The SUV's driver, whose name was not released, was cited for reckless driving.
• Rifle, Colo.: Kyle Scholla Cue, 18, of Rifle died April 9, eight days after he fell from sitting on the hood of a vehicle going around a Walmart parking lot, The Denver Post reported. The 17-year-old driver, who was not identified because he was a minor, was charged with careless driving.
• Ocala, Fla.: Gianni Garcia, 15, of Silver Springs Shores, Fla., was one of two teens March 30 riding on the trunk of a Chevrolet Camero when its driver accelerated and he fell off, the Ocala Star-Banner reported. It was not immediately known whether then 17-year-old driver was charged.
• Pittsburgh: Ronte Goins-Nelson, 15, fell from the trunk of a car shortly after midnight Feb. 29 and died March 8 without regaining consciousness, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. His cousin, Nadia Goins-Samuels, 23, was charged with homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment.
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