At least 6 die in massive pileup on icy I-35 freeway in Fort Worth
UPDATE 2-12-2021: Five of the six people who died have been identified: Tiffany Louann Gerred, 34, of Northlake; Aaron Luke Watson, 45, of Fort Worth; Christopher Ray Vardy, 49, of Boyd; William Darrell Williams, 54, of Pahoa, Hawaii; and Michael Henry Wells, 47, of Justin.
Icy roads contributed to a mass accident in Fort Worth, in the early morning of February 11, in which at least 65 people were injured and six people killed.
The accident took place on I-35W, in the southbound express lanes near the Northside Drive exit, and involved 133 vehicles including a number of 18-wheeler trucks, in a massive pileup.
The crash was deemed a mass casualty, due to the large number of people and vehicles involved, with cars and trucks stacked on top of each other, spread out across a long geographic stretch of the freeway, which remains closed while officials continue to process the scene and clear the wreckage.
Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes said that their investigation was still in the "very preliminary stages" but that ice on the roads appeared to be a factor, and that part of the investigation would involve finding out if the roadway had been treated. The lanes are under the jurisdiction of the North Texas Tollway Authority.
Many victims were trapped inside their vehicles and needed hydraulic rescue equipment to be extricated. The response required coordination between police, fire, and MedStar units, who set up two separate stations at the north and south ends of the wreckage, including a triage unit. At least 36 people were transported to hospitals with injuries, three in critical condition.
Matt Zavadsky, chief officer at MedStar Mobile Healthcare, said that all of the victims were adults.
"Given the time of day, it was a lot of people commuting to work," Zavadsky said. "There were also a large number of health care workers, we saw a lot of people in scrubs with hospital IDs, since that's right around the time of a shift change."
Zavadsky applauded the cooperative effort between agencies.
"This is the kind of incident our agencies train for but hope will never happen," he said. "It was dark, freezing cold, and raining, and we had several first responders who fell on the scene. But through all of that, to get this number of patients from that kind of scene over such a large geographic area was amazing."
Zavadsky, Noakes, and Mayor Betsy Price all expressed sadness for the victims and families.
"It's been an incredibly difficult day for the city of Fort Worth," Price said. "My heart is broken for this community and the tragic loss of so many lives in a scene like none of us have ever seen before. It's difficult for our first responders, for our medics, for our firefighters and hospital workers, and this whole community will feel that pain."