Albuquerque, NM- After a decade-long legal battle, the family of a New Mexico woman who suffocated to death in sand flowing from a semi-truck that had just hit her was awarded $80 million in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Laura Miera, 48, died on October 12, 2002, after dropping her 14 year-old daughter off at school. She was waiting for a red-light to change when a Redi-mix truck exiting Interstate 40, flew off the highway ramp and landed on top of her car. Miera’s car was pushed up an embankment and rolled over, trapping her inside.

As Miera was waiting to be freed from her car, sand from the truck began pouring into her vehicle which eventually engulfed her vehicle and she suffocated to death.

Teachers, students, and counselors who were arriving for the morning from rushed to Miera’s aide. They tried to dig her out, but that was futile as sand continued to poor into the vehicle. One counselor held Miera’s hand and told her to keep squeezing it so she would know she was okay.

“The school counselor was holding her hand, praying while the sand just rose above her head, and the counselor just kept saying ‘Squeeze my hand if you can hear me.’ She squeezed for a while until she died,” Jacob Vigil, the attorney who represents the Miera family told CBS Las Vegas.

The lawsuit stated that the truck which was owned by Albuquerque Redi-Mix had an expired registration and three brakes out of adjustment. The suit also states that the driver, Truman Bahe, had two DWI charges before he was hired by Redi-Mix.

Virgil told reporters the suit dragged on for so long because the owners of Albuquerque Redi-Mix, Barbara and John Quintana did not want to pay the Miera family. He alleges the Qunitana’s declared bankruptcy to avoid an settlement.

“They [the Quintanas] spent all their money on law firms, paying them to fight this family,”Vigil said. “My heroic little client, 14 when it happened, was an A student. She dropped out of school, hit rock bottom … . It just wrecked this family.”

District Court Judge Shannon Bacon’s judgment awarded compensatory damages of $16.74 million, $2 million to Miera’s daughter and $1 million to Miera’s husband, Jose, for loss of companionship. She also awarded the Miera family $60 million in punitive damages.

But the money, said Vigil, won’t make up for the loss felt by the Miera family and hopes that this case will help make the regulations tougher and penalties for companies and drivers who are cited for mechanical and equipment violations.

“This is a chronic problem across the country,” Vigil said. “There are thousands and thousands of trucking deaths every year. It’s 25, 50 tons of moving metal at highway speed. They’re dangerous

In Bacon’s order she said the Quintanas conduct was willful and “endangered and continues to endanger the public at large, and caused the slow and painful death of Laura Miera,” according to UPI.