9-year-old girl struck by car

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By David Giuliani

A 9-year-old girl is in serious condition after being hit by a car while riding her bike Tuesday, city police said. The motorist may have been on his cell phone at the time.

Madison Holley, 1309 First St., whose mother is Pamela Bustos, was taken by helicopter to University of New Mexico hospital in Albuquerque on Tuesday night.

According to police, Holley was apparently riding across First Street in front of her family’s house when Peter J. Salazar Jr., 33, 2514 Carmean Drive, accidentally struck her. Other children were reportedly in the area.

Police Chief Gary Gold said the police have reason to believe that Salazar may have been on his cell phone when the crash happened. But he said his agency hadn’t confirmed that fact.

Salazar’s cell phone records show that Salazar received a call from his girlfriend around the time of the crash, which happened shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, Gold said.

Gold also said an unidentified witness told an officer that Salazar had been on his phone at the time of the accident, but the witness later recanted, apparently not wanting to get involved in the investigation.

Salazar denied that he was on his cell phone, Gold said.

“People shouldn’t be distracted when they’re driving,” the chief said. “There are kids and vehicles that will pop out in front of you. The driver has to expect the unexpected.”

Salazar was cited for not having a valid license or insurance, Gold said. Salazar’s car was impounded as part of the investigation, the chief said.

Salazar’s phone number isn’t listed in the phonebook, so he couldn’t be reached for comment.

Three years ago, the City Council enacted an ordinance forbidding drivers from talking on their cell phones while driving. They may use only hands-free phones; an exception was made for police officers.

However, the department recently purchased Bluetooth phones for officers, which are attached to officers’ car visors, so they are hands-free. The gadgets are $60 each, Gold said.

“I just activated mine yesterday,” Gold said.