Photo courtesy of the FWFD Twitter account/Glen Ellman.
At least six people are dead and more than 100 injured after freezing rain on Interstate 35 in Fort Worth, Texas, caused more than 100 vehicles to collide in a twisted carnage of metal that stretched over half a mile, according to Fort Worth Incident Command authorities. More than 80 police units, 13 ambulances, and several fire engines responded to the tragic scene Thursday morning.
“The scene we saw today is one really unlike one probably any of us have ever seen and one we pray to God we never see again,” Fort Worth Police Department Chief Neil Noakes said during a Thursday press conference. “Our hearts, our thoughts, our prayers go out to everyone negatively affected by this tragic incident.”
24 hours ago, events on 35W changed many lives in our community forever! We are saddened by the tragedy, but inspired by the amazing work by @FortWorthFire @fortworthpd and MedStar personnel. Facing incredible challenges, these professional rose to the occasion to preserve life! pic.twitter.com/Te5S3dlEYw
— MedStar EMS Alerts (@MedStarEMSInfo) February 12, 2021
At approximately 6 a.m. Thursday, 911 calls started flooding into the Fort Worth Metro Dispatch Center for a rapidly developing vehicle pileup on southbound I-35W. Haunting videos started hitting social media platforms showing large semitrucks smashing into the growing pileup of vehicles. By 6:15 a.m., units from the Fort Worth police and fire departments and local emergency medical services agency MedStar had arrived on the scene.
First responders immediately started assessing the situation and working to rescue people who were entrapped and/or injured. According to a tweet from MedStar, rescuers were placing caution tape on vehicles to show others that they had already been checked for survivors. Four officers were injured during the incident; three were driving when it happened and one was injured while on the scene, according to Noakes.
Fort Worth Fire Department Chief Jim Davis said the cold temperatures, which were in the low 20s, slowed everything down when it came to their equipment reaching optimal temperatures to operate. In addition, the cold is a compounding factor for the condition of accident victims, as cold and traumatic injuries are a deadly combination.
Preliminary information on MCI in Fort Worth. More info will be released later. At least 100 vehicles involved, 5 fatalities, 36 transported to local hospitals. #yourFWFD continues to work the incident and will be on scene for several hours. pic.twitter.com/DUtRJFKSI9
— Fort Worth Fire Department (@FortWorthFire) February 11, 2021
The responders established sectors for extrication, triage, and treatment. FWFD firefighters used hydraulic equipment to extricate people trapped in the wreckage. Wreckers from multiple companies helped with pulling vehicles apart and off the roadway. MedStar transported 36 people from the scene, and at least 65 people involved in the incident have checked into local hospitals to seek treatment.
Multiple authorities said they expect the number of injured and dead to increase as they continue to investigate the scene and clear out the wreckage. Noakes said it seems like “ice was a factor,” but the investigation is still active.
By around 4:30 p.m. Thursday, when the press conference concluded, the accident area was still an active scene with first responders working to pull people from the wreckage. CBS reported that northbound I-35 was reopened by 8 p.m. Thursday.
The Fort Worth Department of Transportation and Public Works had not responded to requests for information about roadway treatments in icy conditions at the time of publication.
Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children.
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