Deadly pileup in Fort Worth like a ‘scene out of a movie’

Interstate 35 near Fort Worth, Texas, was shut down early Thursday morning after a major pileup clogged the highway with vehicles ranging from sedans to tractor-trailers. The accident was first reported shortly after 6 a.m. CST Thursday, 9-1-1 calls flooding the Fort Worth 911 Communications Center about an accident in the southbound express lanes of I-35 at Northside. Over the course of the next several hours, 26 Fort Worth Fire Department emergency vehicles, including three heavy-rescue companies and multiple special units, arrived on the scene, Fort Worth Fire Chief Jim Davis said during a news conference Thursday. Upon assessing the scene, the responders among the first to arrive called in for more assistance. A total of 13 ambulances and 80 police units responded to the accident. Earlier that morning at the scene, the Fort Worth Fire Department stated that multiple people were trapped in the wreckage. Davis confirmed that the number of fatalities had risen from five to six, and another 36 people were transported to a hospital from the scene with roughly 65 more seeking care related to the accident after leaving the site. “This is not an easy one by any means. It’s not a normal accident that we work on a regular basis. This is not a fender bender. This is a major catastrophe in our city,” Mike Drivdahl, Public Information Officer of the Fort Worth Fire Department, said during the press conference. MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky described the scene as “unbelievable,” not only from the safety issues and multiple casualties, but in terms of the conditions first responders had quickly work in — finding and treating people in the dark, until the sun rose, with freezing rain pouring down. “There were several first responders who are probably a little sore right now because they actually fell on the scene,” Zavadsky said. Four Fort Worth police officers were reported injured, three who had been en route to work and one who was injured while working at the scene of the accident, according to Police Chief Neil Noakes. All four have since been released from the hospital with no serious injuries. Noakes also confirmed in the press conference that in this point in the investigation, which is still preliminary, ice was a factor in the accident. “You take a scene out of a movie and you just imagine trying to recreate that and this was worse than I could have ever even imagined recreating,” storm chaser Jason McLaughlin told AccuWeather. McLaughlin was on the scene of the pileup shortly after it unfolded. “It was just one of those things you just see it and you kind of just pause in your footsteps and you’re just like, wow you don’t know what to say,” McLaughlin added. One of the first images of the pileup that occured on I-35 in Fort Worth, Texas, on Feb. 11, 2021. (Twitter/FortWorthFire) The preliminary investigation has estimated at least 133 vehicles were involved in the pileup, which stretched at least across a half-a-mile area along I-35. Traffic was backed up even farther along the highway due to the accident. “Those vehicles were probably coming a good 60 to 70 miles per hour before they hit that accident,” McLaughlin speculated. “Some cars are just so mangled, I mean kind of beyond definition.” It is unclear how long the interstate will remain closed as emergency crews clear the road of the wreckage. McLaughlin has experienced all kinds of severe weather ranging from tornadoes to hurricanes, and Thursday’s pileup stands out among some of the worst he has seen. “I was covering Hurricane Laura and had a tree crush my vehicle actually, while I’m in it,” he explained. “Missed my head, about 3 feet right behind me, crushed the back of my car and you know, this right here is going to stick a whole lot more than what that did to me.” Storm chaser Jason McLaughlin looking back toward the Fort Worth pileup on Feb. 11, 2021. (AccuWeather) Freezing rain was reported around the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex on Wednesday night into early Thursday morning associated with a far-reaching winter storm. Temperatures in the area were in the mid- to lower 20s F at the time of the crash. It is unclear if weather was a factor in the cause of the pileup. However, the wintry weather could slow down emergency crews. 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.— Fort Worth Fire Department (@FortWorthFire) February 11, 2021 With temperatures in the 20s, a warming bus was sent to the scene of the pileup in case people began to experience hypothermia. CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APP This pileup on Interstate 35 was just one of many crashes reported across the region on Thursday morning. The National Weather Service tweeted a warning in response to the numerous crashes around the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area. “These events are so dangerous because the ice is spotty,” the NWS tweeted. “We can’t stress enough that road conditions could go from good to dangerous within blocks. Take it slow out there.” The highway sits closed as emergency crews finish cleaning following accidents caused by ice and low temperatures in Richardson, Texas, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. A winter storm brought a coating of ice to parts of Texas. (AP Photo/LM Otero) The Arlington Police Department responded to more than 80 crashes since Wednesday night. Treacherous travel was also reported in Austin, Texas, with a 26-vehicle pileup occurring on Highway 45 around 8:30 a.m. CST. The Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services (ATCEMS) confirmed that 32 people were involved with five people being transported to a local hospital. Later Thursday evening, a 6-vehicle collision was reported in Austin, Texas, on Highway 45 a little after 6 p.m. CST. The ATCEMS confirmed 14 people were involved. Travel is strongly discouraged due to both the icy conditions and from road closures due to the plethora of crashes reported across the Dallas area on Thursday morning. Keep checking back on and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.

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