New Mexico’s Health Secretary Retta Ward has been found dead after her car was involved in an accident near Santa Fe, but the cause of death appears to have been a health issue, officials say.
The accident happened at about 9:30 a.m. on Thursday when Ward’s vehicle swerved off a road just northwest of Santa Fe. Deputies arrived at the scene and found Ward to be unresponsive, after which she was pronounced dead at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center.
The exact cause of death was not immediately known, but 62-year-old Ward is believed to have suffered a medical episode as she appears not to have suffered any injuries as a result of the car accident.
“It is with the heaviest heart that we inform you that our precious Secretary Retta Ward was involved in an accident this morning, and unfortunately she did not survive” the Department of Health said in a statement. “Secretary Ward was an exceptional leader, passionate about improving health for all New Mexicans.”
Governor Susana Martinez also mourned Ward’s death, saying she was “completely heartbroken” by the news. “She was kind and caring – always,” Martinez said. “I will personally miss Retta very, very much, and so will her fellow cabinet secretaries and staff who I know are grieving the loss of a true friend and leader.”
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