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Feb. 20, 1997

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MONAHANS, Feb. 20, 1997 - Ruben Franco Jr., 17, a senior at Monahans
High School, a football and basketball player.

He was the driver.

Raymundo Franco III, 16, a junior at Monahans High School, a football
and baseball player, a member of the Marching Lobo band.

He was sitting in the right passenger seat.

They were cousins.

Both were killed at 12:22 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, when the car in
which they were riding smashed into a caliche pit and burst into flame.
Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Ronold Ray officially pronounced them
dead at 1:32 am. Saturday.

Two back seat passengers - Ramon Olivas, 16 and Evaristo Yanez, 17, also
Monahans High School students - got out of the burning vehicle. They
were treated at Ward Memorial Hospital for severe cuts. They survived.

Trooper Eric White of the Texas Highway Patrol was the lead investigator
of the crash. He said the fatal crash was "alcohol related." He promises
to find and prosecute those who provided the teens the alcohol. White
says Raymundo Franco III was not drinking.

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, in Monahans, separate funeral services for Ruben
and Ray were held at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church.
Father John Lucido conducted services for Ray at 11 a.m.; for Ruben at 3
p.m. Burial was in Monahans Memorial Cemetery.

High School Principal Sam Atwood excused students and staff who wished
to attend the rites for two of their classmates. Wednesday's funeral
masses were the climax of mourning by friends, students and citizens.

"We've made counseling available for the students to help them through
this tragedy," reports Atwood. "We've been in contact with (State
Education) District 18 and had them on stand-by. It's very, very sad, a
tragedy. Anyone who wishes to attend the funerals is excused."

Students and friends first began going to the death site in the caliche
pit six miles north of Monahans on State Route 18 on Monday. Some of
them, still unknown, built a spontaneous, simple memorial to the two
teen-age cousins who died.

Others began visiting the homes of the boys who were killed. One,
reports Ray's father, also named Raymundo, stayed in Ray's room most of
Monday night.

Ray's father still is working his way through the unlikely series of
events that led to the death of his son and cousin Ruben. The last time
he saw the boys, recalls Reymundo, was about 10 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 14,
St. Valentine's Day. Ruben drove to the house in the little gold-colored
1993 Dodge Dynasty.

"Ray had been at baseball practice and was feeling pretty good," recalls
the father. "He was a shortstop and pitcher on the junior varsity and he
said Coach (Robin Fulce) might let him do a little pitching. He liked to
ride. He just liked to ride around."

Reymundo never saw his son alive again. Less than two and one-half hours
later, both Ray and Ruben were dead.

What happened?

Here is the way Trooper White has reconstructed the tragedy.

The Dynasty was Eastbound on Farm-to-Market Road 1219. Ruben Franco was
driving. Ray Franco was in the right passenger seat. Both were wearing
their seat belts. In the rear seat were Yanez and Olivas.

FM 1219 deadends into State Route 18. At the top of the "T" is the old
caliche pit. There is a stop sign for traffic coming off 1219 at that
intersection, a few feet beyond some railroad tracks.

Occupants of two vehicles approaching the intersection saw what
happened. It was 12:21 a.m. Saturday.

In a pick-up approaching were members of a drilling crew - Tommy Miller,
Melvin Arnold, Bill Shadden and Fernando Acosta. In an automobile was
Tommy Rice of Wickett. All of them saw it.

"The car went through the intersection at about 100 miles an hour,"
reports Trooper White. "FM 1219 ends at 18. There is no evidence of

The Dynasty became airborne at the edge of the pavement, soaring across
the barbed wire fence between the roadway and the caliche pit. The
vehicle struck once at the edge of the pit and bounced high, spinning
and tumbling in the air."

From White: "It hit the embankment (211 feet from the point it left the
highway) rearend first and upside down."

By this time Rice was on the way into Monahans in his car to get help.
He telephoned from Allsup's and reported the accident. It was 12:32 a.m.
Rice still did not know the car was burning.

Meanwhile, the four men in the pick-up stopped. They saw flames begin to
move up the side of the car from the engine area. Fuel lines had
ruptured. Arnold and Shadden bailed out of the pick-up, went through the
fence gate and began running and stumbling over the soft, uneven terrain
toward the burning car. One of the back-seat passengers had been thrown
free. Arnold and Shadden helped the other backseat passenger through the
shattered rear window of the car as the flames began to roar forcing
the rescuers away from the flaming vehicle.

Miller and Acosta were on their way to Monahans as Arnold and Shadden
attempted to work among the flames. Miller and Acosta drove directly to
the Monahans Police Department. It was 12:34 a.m. A Monahans fire truck
scrambled. The first ambulance arrived at 12:41 a.m; the fire truck , at
12:44 p.m.

Trooper Eric White was patrolling Interstate 20 about seven miles from
the crash scene when he received the call at 12:34 a.m. He was on the
accident scene four minutes later.

The mourning began.

Trooper Eric White of the Texas Highway Patrol, Ward County Sheriff Ben
Keele and Monahans Police Chief Dave Watts say they already have
intensified their enforcement of state laws designed to curb speeding,
drunken driving and illegal sale of alcohol products to minors.

"There will be more tickets written," says Trooper White. "Enforcement
will be even tougher."

"We are going to get a little ornery in enforcement," says Sheriff Keele.

"The law will be enforced - hard," says Chief Watts. The officers were
speaking in the wake of the traffic crash that killed two Monahans High
School students and injured two others. White says the crash was
"alcohol related."

White notes law prohibits providing alcoholic beverages to minors.
"These people are subject to prosecution," warns White.

Father pleads for no drinking

Somber and concerned, Raymundo Franco softly pleaded for everyone not to
drive when they're drinking.

Franco is the father of one of two Monahans High School students who
were killed in the flaming crash of an automobile. Texas Highway Patrol
investigators have classified the crash as "alcohol related." Those same
investigators said their inquiries have determined that Franco's
16-year-old son, Ray Franco III, was not using alcohol.

"All the kids, everyone, should learn something from this terrible
tragedy," Franco said. "My boy wasn't drinking and he died because
someone else was drinking.

"It is time for all of us to be certain that we stop all of this we can.

"We can't stop it all. But maybe we can stop some of it," says Franco.

Trooper Eric White of the Highway Patrol had told him about the alcohol
and the crash.

Franco said it was hard for him to accept the death.

"Don't drive drunk," the grief-stricken father pleaded.

Parade kicks off livestock show

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This week's livestock show kicked off in fine fashion with Monday
afternoon's parade despite threats of rain.

The exhibition opened with the Market Swine Show Tuesday evening and the
Lamb, Capon, Gamebird and Rabbit shows Wednesday night.

Thursday will begin with the Pee Wee Goat and Breeding Goat shows at 5
p.m. followed by the Heifer Show. The 8 p.m. steer show will wrap up the

Activities begin bright and early Friday with pictures of the sale
animals scheduled for 8 a.m. From 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., the Ward County
4-H Boosters Association will serve a bar-b-que lunch.

Production buckle and honoree presentations are scheduled for noon
followed by the auction of the top animals at 1 p.m.

For the exhibitors, the Livestock Show Dance at 8 p.m. Saturday night
will bring the week to an end.

Judge Jamie Osborne of Marble Falls chose Lance Porter's lightweight
Duroc for overall Grand Champion honors and tabbed Justin Canova's
Heavyweight York as reserve champion at Tuesday night's Market Swine
Show. Jon Richardson took showmanship honors.

Winners by breed included:
Heavyweight Cross: James Stocks, first (Champion) and Mary Lou Ramirez,

Medium Heavyweight Cross: Jody Perry, first (Reserve Champion) and Misty
Stocks, second.

Mediumweight Cross: Arcelia Fuentes, first and Chandra Emfinger.

Lightweight Cross: Diana Graham, first and Cody Murphree, second.

Mediumweight Hampshire: Chelsea Emfinger, first (Reserve Champion) and
Summer Pulis, second.

Lightweight Hampshire: Meghan Francisco, first and James stocks, second.

Heavyweight Hampshire: Erica Anaya, first (Champion) and Cole Cornelius,

Lightweight Duroc: Lance Porter, first (Champion) and Cody Murphree,

Lightweight York: Christin Pipkin, first (Reserve Champion) and Lance
Porter, second.

Heavyweight York: Justin Canava, first (champion) and Jon Richardson,
second, (reserve champion).

Heavyweight Duroc: Christin Pipkin, first and Chandra Emfinger, second.

Other Pure Breds: Champion honors went to Summer Pulis and Reserve
Champion to Amanda Martinez.

Big Mac owner puts customers first

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MONAHANS, Feb. 20, 1997 - Richard Castro, the new owner of the Monahans
McDonald's, not only brings a wealth of experience in restaurant
management, but has also put in place a new staff and a philosophy of
community involvement.

Castro, of El Paso, recently purchased the stores in Monahans and
Pecos and announced plans to build a new location in Andrews. Castro
owns numerous outlets of the fast-food chain across West Texas.

"Our number one priority is our customers," he said last week in an
interview, " My Monahans team has been talking with different people in
Monahans about what we can do to better serve not only our customers,
but the community as well."
Laura Carrasco, of Monahans, who has been affiliated with the local
store for some time, was named as Store Manager by Castro. Bill Story,
the Area Supervisor, will also be frequent presence in Monahans as
Carrasco assembles her management team.
"Laura has done an excellent job for McDonald's in the past and we are
very pleased that she is aboard," said Story.
Castro stressed his desire to see McDonald's become a more active and
visible part of the community.
"We believe in getting involved in the community and doing our part to
help, especially the youth. One of our plans is to offer an annual
scholarship to a deserving Ward County high school senior," the owner
said, adding "Of course we'll be leaving the final decision as to
scholarship recipients to school officials."
Castro's McDonald's also helps other organizations such as the the 4-H
Club, the FFA, the Partners in Education, the National Hispanic Fund,
the United Negro College Fund and various Boys and Girls Clubs across
the region.
Castro also will continue participation in the Ronald McDonald House
program which provides housing for the parents of seriously ill children
while visiting distant hospitals.
Laura Carrasco has been busy interviewing prospective employees,
keeping an eye open for those who know the importance of customer
"We will be trying to provide the best service possible, while at the
same time, monitoring customer feedback," said Carrasco.
Richard Castro, the new owner of the Monahans McDonald's restaurant says
the world's most famous clown, Ronald mcDonald himself, will be in
Monahans at 4 p.m. on Saturday, March 1.
Ronald should pull into the restaurant abuut mid-afternoon for a show
that will entertain children of all ages. The visit is just one of the
promotions planned by the new management team put in place by Castro.
"I think this will be a great way for us to introduce ourselves to
Monahans," said Castro. "I urge parents to bring their lawn chairs,
their families and their appetites to McDonald's on March 1.
"It'll be great f

Monday banquet set for chamber

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Members of the Monahans Chamber of Commerce have until 4 p.m. Friday
Feb. 21 to buy members-only $20 tickets to the annual Chamber of
Commerce banquet on Monday, Feb. 24.
Chamber executive Tammy Swigert notes tickets for the banquet, if
purchased in advance, are $20 for members and $25 for non-members; but
if tickets are purchased at the door Monday, the price is $25 for
everyone - members as well as non-members. The banquet will be at 7
p.m. Monday in the Ward County Convention Center, known popularly as
the community center. The CofC number is 943-2187.

Tax relief plan on legislative agenda

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AUSTIN - Legislation designed to resolve a quirk in state law and allow
property tax relief for citizens of Monahans and Winkler County was
filed on Monday, Feb. 17.
If approved as expected before the scheduled close of the 75th
Legislature, the property tax relief could be effective by Oct. 1. Under
the plan, the lower property taxes would come as the result of a
half-cent sales tax approved last year in separate elections in the city
of Monahans and Winkler County. Officials of the State Comptroller's
Office said the tax could not be imposed because of conflicting
jurisdictions between Monahans and Winkler.
State Sen. Bob Duncan, R-Lubbock, whose 28th District includes Monahans
and Ward County, and State Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, whose 31st
District includes Winkler County, are carrying the legislature in the
State Senate. Duncan will take the lead in guiding the measure (Senate
Bill 590) through that legislative chamber.
In the House, State Rep. Bob Turner, D-Coleman, whose 73rd District
includes Ward County, and State Rep. Gary Walker, R-Plains, whose 80th
District includes Winkler County, cosponsor the action (House Bill
1373) in the House.
Both the House and Senate bills are virtually the same, which will
preclude any delay in a conference committee after the legislation comes
to a vote.
Monahans City Manager David Mills and Winkler County officials were told
of the pending legislation last week and approved it as written, report
staff members in both Turner's and Duncan's offices. The legislation is
scheduled to be assigned to House and Senate committees this week. When
finally enacted, the measure will resolve an arcane governmental
jurisdictional issue that will allow a half-cent sales tax to be used
for property tax relief in both the city of Monahans and in Winkler
Turner and Duncan have noted that the jurisdictional impasse on the
property tax relief issue began in the 1950s. It was then that Monahans,
county seat of Ward County, annexed some 5,000 acres in Winkler County.
Says Turner: "This overlapping jurisdiction, , coupled with the dual
sales tax elections, caused the half-cent sales tax to exceed the legal
Under the legislation before the Senate and House, the Monahans City
Council and Winkler County officials would decide before June 30 whether
to validate the voter-approved sales tax increase.
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Copyright 1997 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314

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