WORST MULTI-VEHICLE COLLISION IN TEXAS HISTORY
Last Thursday, Texas experienced the worst multiple-vehicle collision in the history of the state on I-35 when de-icing materials, put in place on the roadway in preparation for the severe winter weather expected that weekend, blew away in strong winds, causing several vehicles to loose control, including a Fed Ex 18-wheeler truck, caused over 130 vehicles to crash in a horrific scene that stretched roughly a mile and a half, with additional impacts taking place over an hour. Six people died and over 30 were hospitalized, with multiple commercial vehicles slamming into existing wreckage and putting survivors assessing damage in further danger.
The six victims who were killed have been identified.
The tragedy occurred along Interstate 35 near Fort Worth shortly after 6am, with shocking video showing a FedEx truck plowing into a barrier after losing control on an icy downhill stretch of road, disrupting travel and causing terrible carnage.
Dozens of vehicles travelling behind the truck subsequently smashed into one another, with the crash site stretching back and trapping many people in their vehicles for hours as emergency workers fought to set them free.
The dead have been identified as 34-year-old Tiffany Gerred, Aaron Watson, 45, Michael Wells, 47, Christopher Vardy, 49, William Williams, 54, and 46-year-old Tamara Mendoza Querales.
Gerred was an employee with the Tarrant County District Clerk’s office, according to news sources.
Tom Wilder, the head of the clerk’s office, called Ghim ’a beacon of light with her energetic personality’.
Watson’s family confirmed his death. He had two sons and was described as ‘a giver’ to his family and to his work.
Wells’ family added: ‘Mike was a great friend to many. He never met a stranger and would do anything for anyone. Our family will never be the same.’
The tragedy was caused by Winter Storm Shirley, which wreaked havoc the North Texas region and beyond, brought freezing temperatures to the area overnight Thursday, making the roads unusually icy.
First responders described the scene as a ‘mass casualty incident’ with crushed cars stacked on top of one another and helpless drivers stuck inside.
The death toll was initially reported at five, before officials confirmed a sixth fatality on Thursday evening.
Investigators confirmed that 36 of the 65 people who were injured were taken to local hospitals by ambulance.
One Medstar official said no children were among the seriously injured.
An investigation into the cause of the crash is now underway, with local politicians now questioning whether the roads were properly prepared for the wet and slippery conditions that had been forecast.
‘I’ve got lots of good friends that are both on the police department and fire department and I asked them to tell me what they saw there… We can’t see evidence of any protection of de-icing techniques that were performed,’ Fort Worth state Rep Ramon Romero told
Romero told the news network he plans to hold a hearing to question North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners – the company that maintains the stretch of privately operated freeway where the crash occurred.
In a statement the company said ‘Our crews treat the entire corridor, managed lanes, general purpose lanes, frontage roads and ramps, and operate under the same procedure as the Texas Department of Transportation. Additionally, our message boards throughout the corridors have been alerting drivers of the adverse weather conditions and encouraging them to drive with caution.’
One first responder said that stretch of road ‘was solid ice when police and firefighters first arrived.’ Rescue workers were allegedly slipping on the ice as they attempted to reach victims inside their cars. Some had to lay salt and sand over the road in order to mitigate the slippery conditions.
Late on Thursday, Forth Worth Mayor Besty Price released a statement saying her ‘heart is broken’ over the tragedy.
‘So many people have lost their loved ones or had them injured and that pain is just incredible, this whole community will feel that pain,’ she stated.
The scene appeared almost too much to bear for one rescue worker as he walked away from a destroyed vehicle.
Texas is now recovering from another frigid blast of winter weather and has plunged the state into an unusually icy emergency Monday that knocked out power to more than 2 million people, impacted clean water supplies and shut down grocery stores as well as snowy roads.
The worsening conditions halted the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine shipments and left some Texas providers scrambling to find takers for doses expiring within hours.
Temperatures nosedived into the single-digits as far south as San Antonio, and homes that had already been without electricity for hours had no certainty about when the lights and heat would come back on, as the state’s overwhelmed power grid throttled into rotating blackouts that are typically only seen in 100-degree Fahrenheit summers.
The storm was part of a massive system that brought snow, sleet and freezing rain to the southern Plains and was spreading across the Ohio Valley and to the Northeast.
The Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities across 14 states, called for rolling outages because the supply of reserve energy had been exhausted. Some utilities said they were starting blackouts, while others urged customers to reduce power usage.
‘We’re living through a really historic event going on right now,’ said Jason Furtado, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma, pointing to all of Texas under a winter storm warning and the extent of the freezing temperatures.
In Houston, where county leaders had warned that the freeze could create problems on the scale of massive hurricanes that slam the Gulf Coast, one electric provider said power may not be restored to some homes until Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board announced it is launching an investigation into themassive, 133 vehicle truck wreck that left six people dead and dozens injured in Fort Worth Thursday.
The investigation will look into the winter weather treatment procedures for the roads, the board said.
The NTSB, in coordination with the North Tarrant Express & Texas Department of Transportation, is conducting a safety investigation of the fatal Feb. 11, 2021, multi-vehicle crash on I-35 near Fort Worth, TX.
The agency responsible for treating Interstate 35W, the North Tarrant Express, said last week that the roads were treated throughout the week.
“NTE & NTE35W maintenance crews started pre-treating the corridors on Tuesday morning in anticipation of inclement weather, and have been treating continuously as they monitor the roadway,” North Tarrant Express said in a statement last week.
“We will continue treating the highways through the weekend and into next week, as long as the storm is active. Our crews treat the entire corridor, managed lanes, general purpose lanes, frontage roads and ramps.”
The North Texas Toll Authority said that Texas roads are” treated with brine, a heavily salted liquid solution that dries and helps treat roads prior to inclement winter weather.”
Texas lawmakers are calling for an investigation into when and how the roads were treated.
“I have spoken to state legislators from the region, and they expressed concerns that this roadway may not have been sufficiently pre-treated for icy weather prior to the event,” Texas state Rep. Terry Canales, the Chairman of the House Transportation Committee, said Friday.
“If this is true, regardless if it is the responsibility of a private entity to treat the North Tarrant Express, it is wholly unacceptable, and I’m calling on the Texas Department of Transportation and the Texas Department of Public Safety to conduct a complete investigation into the circumstances surrounding Thursday morning’s traffic disaster.”
The 133-car pileup started around 6:15 a.m. Thursday morning as cars lost control on a thin sheet of ice that covered the road. A video posted by Dallas Texas TV, a local social media company, showed an 18-wheeler unable to stop as it crashes into multiple cars.
“The roadway was so treacherous from the ice that several of the first responders were falling on the scene,” Matt Zavadsky, a spokesman for MedStar Mobile Helathcare – which sent multipple ambulances to the crash – told the Associated Press last week.
Smaller pileups happened throughout Texas amid the winter storm, and drivers should stay on high alert now as the state recovers from the blizzard throughout the state.
If you or a loved one have been in a multi-vehicle collision, consider representation by a personal injury firm such as AMS Law Group
-Written by D.M. Eaton