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Santa Fe Grieves

One tragic crash devastates the community

July 1, 2009, 12:00 am

Julian Martinez joined the 10th grade class at Monte del Sol Charter School midway through the year and immediately became “a character on campus,” Lisa Otero, a history teacher at the school who was Martinez’ adviser, says. “He was very well-liked by his peers immediately.”
Like many teenagers, Otero says, Martinez came to the school “struggling to find his way, to find a place in the world.”

During the 10th grade camping trip at the beginning of June, Otero guided the students in a group exercise in which they sat around a campfire, wrote down their regrets for the year and then went around the circle talking about “something they were grateful for,” before throwing their regrets into the fire.

“It got to be Julian’s turn and he was so excited, he stood straight up tall on one of the picnic tables and told us all in that circle that he was grateful he had finally gotten into Monte del Sol and he finally felt like he belonged somewhere…”

Academically, Otero says, Martinez was “extremely talented and creative and bright, an avid reader. He struggled with task-oriented [work], but he loved to talk about ideas.”

Indeed, fellow teacher Seth Biderman, a contributor to SFR, says Julian “wasn’t a sit in your seat and do what the teacher says kind of student,” but he was starting to come into his own.

“He was crazy about the book The Secret; he always had two or three books going, The Book Thief was the last book I saw him with,” Biderman says. “Julian was a very good writer, very advanced. He was writing a story called Ambitions of a Runaway, and his handwriting was all capitals and graffiti style; he was into tagging, and it was a really fascinating story. He got to five or six pages of it, just about the teenage scene in Santa Fe. He was a deep thinker.”

Perhaps Martinez’ greatest love, Otero says, was the school’s botany and garden program.

“He would sit out in the garden and read by himself, and he had his own plot in the garden and became really close with the teacher who taught him botany,” she says.

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Julian Martinez showed great promise as a writer and artist.

Biderman saw Martinez approximately four hours before he died, on the Plaza. “We stopped and I introduced him to my wife and we shook hands. It was good to get a goodbye because my last memory before that was him breaking a water balloon over my head on the last day of school,” Biderman says. He covers his eyes for a moment and laughs with grief. “That’s a good memory, too.”

Donations for Martinez’ family can be made at Century Bank account No. 0050076074.


One girl survived the crash. Avree Koffman remains at University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque. Her father, Dan Koffman, is an advertising account executive at this paper.

As of June 30, doctors were telling Dan that, although Avree suffered a “severe brain injury”—the implications of which aren’t yet clear—she was headed for recovery.

“They think she survived because she was furthest away,” Koffman says. He thanks the teens in the trailing cars, who called 911 immediately, bringing paramedics and then a helicopter to ferry Avree to the hospital.
Avree’s words so far: “Mom,” “pain,” “oh my God” and a multi-syllabic curse.

Avree’s injuries include fractures to her skull and pelvis, cuts, bruises, burns and a mysterious puncture on her left arm, “almost like a bolt was in her arm,” Koffman says.

Avree swerved left when she saw Owens’ Jeep coming toward her in the wrong lane, Santa Fe County Undersheriff Robert Garcia says. When Owens realized what was happening, he tried to correct it by turning right. As a result, police told Koffman, “whether she’d gone left or right, she wouldn’t have had a chance” to escape the accident.

Now Koffman and a rotating group of friends and family wait by Avree’s bedside.

“I don’t know if she knows what happened. I know she doesn’t know the results of what happened,” Koffman says. “Rose was her best friend and they loved each other…”

Asked how he’s holding up, Koffman chokes up. His feelings are confused. “I have to go back and forth between putting myself in the other parents’ shoes and thinking how close my daughter was, and wondering if she’ll come back,” he says.

And now those back-of-the-brain fears behind every parental nag to every tough-minded teenager have come true. “Your kid’s 16 and she’s got a car and she’s doing the same thing you did,” Koffman says. “You hope you don’t get a phone call in the middle of the night that says, ‘Come to the Hondo Fire Department. We can’t tell you why.’

Then you see. They give you the news. They say, ‘No one knows. You need to quietly get in your car and go to Albuquerque.’ I drive 104 miles to Albuquerque, just wondering if my kid’s alive.”

In those first dark hours, when no one would answer his phone calls and he watched hospital staff brush tiny shards of glass from Avree’s hair, he felt entirely alone. Community support has brought some relief.

“The outpouring of support is great. I hope the community continues it for the other parents that need it.”

And he hopes the support will be there for Avree when she recovers. Without it, he worries, she might fall into a guilt-ridden depression.

“It would be hard not to blame yourself,” he says. “The other kids’ families have been able to go through the memorials. She’s going to wake up: ‘What…am I doing here?’ When she finds out the channel’s been switched, she’s going to need a lot of support.”

Koffman asks that videos and photos of the memorial services, as well as well-wishes and encouragement for Avree, be dropped off at SFR (132 E. Marcy St.) to be passed along to his daughter when she wakes up.



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