White Sands Missile Range Directorate of Emergency Services is working to ensure the safety of participants and spectators during the annual Bataan Memorial Death March by keeping certain areas clear of traffic.
One area of concern as observed from last year’s march is on highway 70 near mile marker 168, where the marathon route runs near the highway.
“Last year we had individuals parking on the highway and walking across,” said Capt. Tom Benavidez, WSMR DES. “That in itself poses a hazard.”
Besides keeping spectators safe, another concern is keeping the area clear for medical response vehicles that may need to use the nearest gate.
“If an ambulance needs to transport anyone by ground, it would exit through there,” said 1st Lt. Ligia Rodriguez-Rosado, McAfee U.S. Army Health Clinic Executive Officer.
According to Rodriguez-Rosado, that area also serves as a landing zone for helicopters used for airlift transport.
She said that while no medical airlifts were necessary last year, the number of injuries is dependent on the weather.
“If it is a hot day, we may need several airlifts,” said Rodriguez-Rosado. “A couple of years ago an individual had a heart attack.”
She said having cars parked off the shoulders of the highway makes “aircraft landings complicated and difficult.” A helicopter may not be able to land during a medical emergency or may cause damages to vehicles in the vicinity due to the debris picked up during landing.
According to Benavidez, some of those parking along the highway were spectators, while others may have been persons who were manning the march’s seventh water point. He said state police will be patrolling the area and anybody parked there may be cited or towed away.