Corvette crashes into business causing major damage
LOVINGTON — A man from Albuquerque was arrested early Saturday morning after he allegedly drove at a high speed, fled police and ultimately crashed into a Lovington oilfield company’s building off Commercial Street causing thousands of dollars worth of damage, while he was allegedly under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
There was a large hole in the side of one of D & L Meter’s buildings on Saturday after a black Chevrolet Corvette plowed into the facade around 4:07 a.m. Saturday, smashed through an office area and wound up resting inside the company’s conference room at 710 S. Commercial St. By Monday, the exterior gaping hole had already been covered up leaving only debris, dented concrete and tire skid marks to tell the story outside. On the inside, however, there were destroyed walls, twisted metal and ruined office equipment because of the crash. Shattered glass also sat on the floor where first responders had to break it to get to the driver. Despite the damage, there were no employee injuries reported by D & L Meters.
D & L Meters CEO Kenny Wallace got a phone call from his foreman after it happened and his reaction was “disbelief” that the driver lived through it. Surveillance footage from a nearby company building showed the Corvette drive onto the property, enter the building and first responders arriving. Needless to say, Wallace confirmed that nothing like this had happened before.
“I had a builder tell me this morning it’ll be over half a million dollars,” Wallace said Monday about the damage.
Wallace said that the damaged area will be torn out.
“But structurally, we don’t know how the steel beams are,” he said. “Because some of them (have) been damaged and they’ll have to be replaced. But all the framed-in part, everything inside will be cut out and all the skin will have to replaced because the roof will leak and all that. So, that’ll all have to be replaced. It’d be just like building a new building.”
Wallace added they were “fortunate,” before explaining that a lot of times, drivers could leave at 3 or sometimes 4 in the morning.
“It could’ve been really disastrous,” he said. “And the kid himself. He’s very lucky to have survived. I’m not too sure that he’s glad he survived at this moment, but he’s very fortunate.”
The Corvette driver, identified as Elias E. Ornelas, 22, is charged with criminal damage to property and aggravated fleeing a law enforcement officer, both fourth-degree felonies; aggravated driving while under the influence of intoxicating liquor and/or drugs (second offense), driving while license revoked, reckless driving and speeding (40 mph over). He was booked into the Lea County Detention Center in Lovington. An LCDC records employee said Ornelas was released Monday on a $15,000 unsecured appearance bond.
The criminal complaint by Lovington police detailed that its dispatch received reports of a black Corvette traveling between Hobbs and Lovington at a “high rate of speed, almost running people off the road.” One caller said the vehicle was traveling at approximately 110 mph in a 65 mph zone. It alleges a Lovington police officer clocked the Corvette traveling 85 mph northbound on Commercial Street in a 45 mph zone. The officer turned on his emergency lights, but the driver “quickly accelerated” northbound and hit the D & L Meters building.
“Lovington Police and EMS personnel had to shatter the glass wall of the interior conference room to gain access to the vehicle’s sole occupant and driver, Elias Eduardo Ornelas … , who was transported to Nor-Lea Hospital and kept under supervision by police officers,” the complaint states.
According to the complaint, the Lovington police investigation revealed the Corvette first left the northbound lane of Commercial Street just after the Chaparral Park entrance and “judging by fresh tire marks,” it slid sideways, hit a slight embankment, went airborne, re-entered the road, continued to slide and went onto the D & L Meters property. Police also noted an empty beer carton was on the front passenger floorboard with two unopened beer bottles behind the driver’s seat.
“Of note, the vehicle’s speedometer was frozen at 178 miles per hour,” the complaint states.
It further reports that Lovington police obtained a search warrant for Ornelas’ blood, which was executed at the hospital’s emergency room. He was later interviewed at the police department after being cleared medically. In the interview, Ornelas reportedly talked about going out to drink at a Hobbs restaurant with friends, then going to a Hobbs bar and to a party. At one point, Ornelas told police he left the party because there was trouble and he headed back to Lovington.
“‘… When I was on my way back, I knew I had a couple of drinks so when I saw the (officer’s) lights, I was like (expletive), I can outrun him,’” Ornelas reportedly told police.
When shown a photo of the car’s speedometer frozen at 178 miles per hour and asked if he could possibly have been going that fast, the defendant reportedly replied, “yeah,” the complaint states.
The complaint states Lovington police learned from hospital personnel that Ornelas’ blood alcohol level measured 214 ml, which corresponds to a breath alcohol level of 0.21 percent. It adds that hospital personnel reported that Ornelas’ blood “tested positive for the presence of marijuana and cocaine.” The Corvette was registered to a friend of Ornelas, who is also from Albuquerque, according to Lovington police.
New Mexico court records reflect Ornelas pleaded guilty in January 2017 to a 2016 DWI charge out of Albuquerque Metropolitan Court. A deferred disposition was listed on that charge.