By Jack King
The body of a 77-year-old Fort Sumner-area man was recovered from 30 feet of water Wednesday morning after his pickup plunged into the Pecos River below Lake Sumner Dam on Tuesday night.
Uley Dowell, who lived in a cabin on Lake Sumner, was pronounced dead at the scene by Deputy Medical Investigator Juan A. Chavez at 9:20 a.m. Wednesday. His body was recovered from his white 1999 Ford pickup by New Mexico State Police divers, said N.M. State Police.
DeBaca County Chief Deputy Robert Bassler said a young man fishing in the Pecos River just below Lake Sumner Dam saw Dowell’s pickup plunge into the water about 7:45 p.m. on Tuesday.
The witness said the vehicle left New Mexico State Road 203, heading southeast, moved onto the road’s south shoulder, traveled 495 feet across an open field and through a barbed wire fence, then landed on the Lake Sumner Dam spillway. From the spillway, it went into the Pecos River in about 30 feet of water, Bassler said.
The young man told police he had seen one person in the truck, but did not see anyone emerge from the water.
Bassler said the witness notified law enforcement officials of the accident and DeBaca County sheriff’s deputies and New Mexico State Police officers came to the scene Tuesday night. Because of darkness and wind conditions, police decided not to attempt a rescue that night, he said.
Bassler said while officers were on the scene Tuesday night, a friend of Dowell’s drove up and suggested the victim might be Dowell, adding that he had been looking for the older man that evening.
The cause of death is still under investigation and Dowell’s body has been sent to the Office of the Medical Investigator in Albuquerque for an autopsy, Bassler said.