6 Deaths Confirmed In 133-Car Pileup On I-35

Feb 12, 2021

From KERA News

Icy conditions lead to a major accident on Interstate 35 West in Fort Worth Thursday. At least six people have died and at least 36 people were taken to area hospitals.

The crash happened around 6 a.m. during heavy traffic on iced-over roads. It was still dark outside and freezing rain was falling when emergency vehicles arrived on the scene. 

Officials say cars slid and were unable to stop before crashing into one another, including an ambulance that was hit by another vehicle as it arrived at the scene.

Fort Worth police and emergency rescue officials said 65 people, which includes the 36 who were transported to the hospital, have sought medical care. All were adults.

Authorities have identified five of the people who died in the crash. They are Aaron Watson, 45, of Fort Worth; William Williams, 54; Christopher Vardy, 49, of Boyd; Michael Wells, 47, of Justin and Tiffany Gerred, 34, of Northlake.

More than 80 police units and 13 ambulances were on the scene of the crash.

Four police officers were injured, three on the way to work and one who was working the scene. All of the officers have been released from the hospital with minor injuries.

“This crash involves upwards of 100 vehicles, rolled over tractor trailers, just a complete annihilation of many of these vehicles,” Matt Zavadsky, with MedStar EMS in Fort Worth said.

Zavadsky added it could take a day or two, or even longer to clear the crash site of damaged and entangled vehicles.

“This was an unbelievable scene from the perspective of not only the scene safety issues, the multiple causalities that we had, it was dark, it was freezing cold, it was raining and freezing when the rain hit the ground," he said. "There were several first responders who are probably a little sore right now because they actually fell on the scene.”

Fort Worth Fire Chief Jim Davis said his team used hydraulic rescue equipment to free multiple people who were trapped in their cars. 

“Please keep in your prayers the families who have lost a loved one in this massive fatality accident,” Fort Worth police officer Daniel Segura said. “In my almost 20 years in service, this is the first time ever that I see anything like this in Fort Worth.”

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price responded to the crash on Twitter, saying "my heart is breaking for our community as we come to learn about the extent of the losses we are experiencing from today’s accident."

Following the crash, there have been some allegations that the I-35 highway lanes were not properly treated in anticipation of the icy weather.

Some videos by passers-by on the highway show the pavement iced over where the collisions happened, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

But a spokesman for the North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners said the company was actively working to keep ice off the roads.

“NTE & NTE35W maintenance crews started pre-treating our corridors on Tuesday and have been spot treating since then,” spokesman Robert Hinkle told the Star-Telegram. “Our crews are now assisting emergency responders to manage the accident scene on 35W, and will continue treating the highways through the weekend and into next week.”

Texas State Senator Beverly Powell, who represents district 10 in North Texas, said her office is aware of the allegations that the I-35 lanes were not properly managed and will be investigating. 

I-35 is backed up in both directions — from Interstate 30 to Interstate 820. Drivers should seek alternate routes.

Got a tip? Email Stella M. Chávez at schavez@kera.org. You can follow Stella on Twitter @stellamchavez