FORT WORTH, Texas — The massive fatal accident on I-35W in Fort Worth on Thursday left a death toll of six and dozens of victims hospitalized for serious injuries.
The chain collision stretched for about a mile down the expressway and was located in the middle of the north and southbound lanes of the I-35W corridor in north Fort Worth. It took first responders hours to reach all the victims and help get those stuck in their vehicles out.
“We’re working through all those vehicles right now; some of them have some pretty extensive damage to them. We do have crews on scene who are actually using hydraulic tools to go in there and rescue those people,” said Mike Drivdahl during the aftermath.
Those critically injured were taken to the nearest hospitals in downtown Fort Worth, while those who sustained less severe injuries were transported to hospitals in the surrounding area in an effort to not overwhelm those medical centers.
A few people were fortunate enough to walk away from the tragic scene with minor injuries or unharmed, even though the vehicles of some were totaled in the accident.
Elvira Herrera is one of those accident survivors who vaguely remembers how she was able to exit her car after it was first impacted, then jumped over the tollway concrete barrier to go across the southbound lanes of I-35W to the roadside for safety.
“There was a couple of cars like kinda stalled on the tollway…so due to the ice, the brakes just locked and you just rammed into cars. Whenever I rammed into another car, I don't know what prompted me to get out, but thank God I got out because it’s now pinned underneath an 18-wheeler,” said Herrera, who works at a downtown hospital and was on her way to work Thursday morning.
Her car was pinned underneath a trailer shortly after that, as more vehicles traveling south on the tollway inevitably continued to pile up, as there is no emergency lane on it.
Herrera’s husband, Ismael Herrera, said after learning about the massive crash, every second felt like an eternity as he made his way to the scene of the accident to get his wife out of the situation and take her home.
“I'm just thankful. She had me worried and all I can say is I’m thankful with God 'cause it could have been worse,” said Herrera.
He parked at a nearby gas station near the crash scene, walked about a mile and then up one of the freeway exit ramps to the bridge where she was waiting in distress.
The Herreras had many emotions as they embraced after the accident and wondered if this tragedy could have been prevented.
“This happened in the express, with this black ice. The city should have treated the roads or closed them completely - there’s several fatal, there’s several people that did not make it," he said.
Angie Livesay, another accident survivor, told Spectrum News 1 Texas she felt extremely fortunate to have made it out alive and able to walk away from the massive collision which involved more than 100 vehicles.
One of the victims from the major accident at 35W southbound at 28th st this morning shared this picture taken from the aftermath. Saying her car is still pinned under those vehicles but she was fortunate to walk out and go home minutes ago. pic.twitter.com/LoCpOTyp2A— Magaly Ayala (@MagalyAyalaTv) February 11, 2021
Livesay said she saw her life flash before her eyes and remembered how fast the accident escalated.
“I’ve never been so grateful and blessed to be alive. It was terrifying, the most awful experience,” she said.
Some first responders who have worked for over 20 years in Fort Worth considered this the worst accident they witnessed.
“Looked like somebody was off on the side of the road, so you try to break and you can’t, not even going very fast, then I hit something and they just kept coming, just kept hitting, it was awful," Livesay said.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbot took a moment to commend first responders for their effort and quick response to the deadly chain crash.
“Wanna thank the first responders who responded so swiftly to assist in that process,” said Abbott.
The express lane accident scene is shut down until further notice as the accident is being investigated.
Authorities advise the public to avoid roads and especially bridges as low temperatures are expected in the north Texas area for the next few days, increasing the possibility of more dangerous black ice.