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[Associated Press/AP Online]
TAOS, N.M. - A 20-ton piece of road machinery mowed down a fence and a couple of trees on property belonging to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after the brakes apparently slipped and the machine rolled away.

"It was a freak accident," said Michael Trujillo, director of public works for Taos County.

He said the hydraulic brake system gave way on the smooth drum roller, which was being used Tuesday to pack down the surface on a road project near property owned by Rumsfeld.

The machine took out a 10- to 15-foot section of wooden posts and wire fencing and a couple of trees as it plunged 12 feet down the side of the canyon road before getting hung up in heavy brush.

Trujillo called the damage slight, and said county officials had been in touch with Rumsfeld's caretaker to discuss reimbursement for the damage.

The accident site is a considerable distance from the house on the property.

Rumsfeld has several pieces of land in the area. Two of his properties near El Prado have been the scenes of frequent anti-Bush administration and anti-war protests.

Trujillo - a member of a prominent Democratic family in a county with 13 percent Republican Party registration - said he's heard plenty of jokes about the mishap.

"This was not a political statement," he said with a laugh. "Donald Rumsfeld is an OK guy as far as I'm concerned."


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