Early this morning, a thin layer of ice coating the high-speed toll lanes near North Side Drive on Interstate 35 North caused one of the worst series of crashes that Fort Worth has ever seen. The catastrophe made national headlines.
This video shows the clean-up of the estimated 133 vehicles in the pile-up.
Berenson Injury Law has handled many crashes on I-35, including a death caused when the reconstruction of the highway happened.
At approximately 6:00 a.m., several drivers lost control of their vehicles and crashed into the guard rails and each other.
Drivers behind them slammed on their brakes but were unable to stop.
There are no shoulders or breakdown lanes on the toll lanes. The speed limit is 75 mph – faster than on the regular lanes. Crashes like these are guaranteed to happen, especially if the roads are wet or iced over.
There were multiple tractor-trailers that crashed into the stopped vehicles, then jackknifed and toppled to their sides, which added to the mayhem. Several exploded and caught on fire.
Heroic emergency medical personnel ran from vehicle to vehicle and used the “Jaws of Life” to extricate many people trapped inside.
Their job was extremely difficult as the vehicles were mangled. Some were thrown on top of each other and across the guard rails as if a tornado had swept through.
Further, the wind chill factor was only 16 degrees and many people were in danger of suffering from hypothermia in the frigid temperature.
Medstar Ambulance rushed at least 36 people to area hospitals, some with critical injuries. Paramedics got others into buses to warm up and be treated.
And of course, many people and hospitals are already grappling with the coronavirus.
We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the deceased and prayers for speedy recoveries to the injured victims.
The highway has been closed down since the crashes as police and accident investigators take measurements and photographs, inspect the vehicles, interview witnesses, and download black box data.
When insurance companies and personal injury attorneys determine which drivers and/or companies were at fault and lawsuits are heard, available funds will be allocated.
If commercial truck drivers were speeding or the company responsible for sanding the toll lanes were at fault in causing the collisions, that will help pay the enormous damages of the many victims.
We believe the toll lanes should have been shut down before these crashes happened and the remaining highway’s speed limit should have been drastically lowered and closely monitored by the police.
Here is a video of the collisions. Warning: it is graphic.
State Representative Ramon Romero, who represents the district where the crashes happened, has questioned whether the express lanes had been treated ahead of time by the private company that operates them. He has demanded an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. We agree with this demand and want to see proof.
The TEXPress lanes were installed several years ago by Tarrant Express Mobility Partners, a privately owned consortium of companies. It says that it had de-iced the roads. To do this job properly, brine (a mixture of salt and ice), salt, de-icers, and sand are used before a winter storm or ice arrives.
However, first responders said that the roads had not been de-iced. Further, the video above shows the vehicles were not able to use their brakes and hit the the cars and trucks in front of them at full highway speed believed to be 70 miles per hour.
Clearly, state and company officials should have inspected the roads since they knew that ice was going to form. There had already been a wreck north of that site several hours before due to ice.
They had a duty to insure that the lanes on the high speed express lanes had been properly treated and were safe.
The State of Texas Department of Transportation is required to maintain the regular lanes of interstate highways. It later issued this vague statement on Twitter that does not say if the Fort Worth roads had been treated or not.
If they were allowed to remain open, the speed limit should have been reduced on both the toll and normal lanes and highly visible signs should have warned motorists of black ice.
Finally, the poor design of the toll lanes contributed to the crashes. The state spent $1.4 billion to expand the antiquated Interstate 35 lanes, finishing in 2018. But traffic still bottlenecks at the exact location of collisions and there is no way for a driver to avoid being rear-ended. The state effectively designed death traps that will continue to cause countless car wrecks. But it has substantial immunity from lawsuits for highway design.
A judge and jury will have to decide who is liable and how much damages should be paid to the families of the deceased and the injured victims.
It has already been a terrible 24 hours across North Texas. Three other people died in Dallas. A total of nine people tragically lost their lives driving on the first day of a predicted winter storm. Roads should have been safe.
More info: https://www.dallasnews.com/news/weather/2021/02/11/winter-weather-causes-hazardous-conditions-on-north-texas-roads/
Yesterday we posted a blog warning about the possibility of crashes due to the inclement weather, but this has exceeded our worst fears.
Again, we urge you not to drive over the next few days unless it is absolutely necessary.
The National Weather Service has texted that we should expect “nearly impossible” travel conditions here in the days ahead beginning late Saturday. It said that “they could become life-threatening.” We have never seen that before.
WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM LATE SATURDAY NIGHT THROUGH MONDAY AFTERNOON * WHAT...Heavy snow and blowing snow possible. Total snow accumulations of 3 to 7 inches possible. Bitterly cold temperatures expected. Near blizzard conditions possible. * WHERE...Portions of north central and northeast Texas. * WHEN...From late Saturday night through Monday afternoon. * IMPACTS...Travel will become nearly impossible and could become life threatening. The cold wind chills as low as 15 below zero could result in hypothermia if precautions are not taken.
Yes, that’ s 15 below zero. And yes, ice could easily accumulate on our roads.
This may be some of the worst weather North Texas has ever experienced.
If you must drive, please slow down, stay off of highways, don’t drive at night, and be extremely careful.
If you have been in the horrific crash on I-35 and have questions, please contact us.