Former Marfa resident recovering from early Tuesday morning accident
MARFA – One man died and another was critically injured in a head-on collision near the Marfa Lights Viewing Center early Tuesday morning.
According to a Department of Public Safety report, a Dodge Caravan driven by Eric Payne, 42, of Midland, was traveling west on U.S. Hwy. 67 when it drifted into the eastbound lane, hitting a Nissan XTerra driven by Alberto “Beto” Halpern. The accident occurred about 12:10am.
Payne, who has family in the tri-county area, was declared dead at the scene.
Halpern, 29, was transported to Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine before being flown to University Medical Center in El Paso. As of late Wednesday afternoon, Halpern was in stable, but critical, condition after undergoing surgery for injuries sustained to an arm and leg.
Payne was the sole occupant of his vehicle. Passengers in Halpern’s vehicle included his wife, Alexsandra Annello, and her cousin Courtney Repoza, who were treated for minor injuries, and Derrick Meyer, who was not hurt.
All the occupants in Halpern’s vehicle wore seatbelts; Payne, however, was not buckled up, according to DPS.
Halpern, 29, is a Marfa native who now lives in El Paso. He and Annello were married before more than 100 people at Indian Lodge in Fort Davis last Saturday, the same day that Annello was elected to the District 2 Representative seat on the El Paso City Council. Halpern and his passengers were en route to see the Marfa Lights when the accident occurred.
Halpern works as chief of staff for El Paso County Commissioner David Stout.
“It’s tough to see one of your friends like that,” Stout told KTSM-TV after visiting Halpern at UMC Tuesday afternoon. “He has been my most trusted advisor, my most trusted colleague. We’ve become very good friends over the years.”
El Paso County Judge Veronica Escobar likewise expressed shock and concern about the accident.
“They had both worked so hard on her race and they were doubly celebrating their new marriage and her victory. It breaks my heart to know what they’re going through. We need to be praying for them.”
Halpern is the son of Robert and Rosario Halpern, owners and publishers of the Big Bend Sentinel and the Presidio International, where Beto honed his love of politics, journalism and public service. His family deeply appreciates the support shown to them throughout this crisis.
“The outpouring of love and concern from Marfa and area family and friends has been a source of comfort for Beto and for us,” Robert Halpern said Wednesday. “We’ve also been buoyed by the love and support of the people of El Paso and the many friends of Alex and Beto. And the staff at UMC is doing an incredible job.”
Annello spoke Wednesday from the hospital, and likewise expressed her gratitude for all those who responded to the accident with such speed and skill.
“The sheriff’s office, the EMS responders from Marfa and Alpine, the firefighters – they all did an amazing job of helping him,” she said.
Beto’s last-second actions to avoid the oncoming car likely spared injury, or worse, from occurring to everyone else in the vehicle, she added.
“What he did that night was true to his character and it saved our lives,” she said. “The first responders then saved his life, and I appreciate them for that.”
For now, his friends and family are by his side as he begins a long recovery.
“We all know Beto is a really strong person,” said Annello. “We’re here with him and he’s doing well.
The El Paso Times and KTSM-TV contributed to the reporting of this story.