5 takeaways from a new report of over 130 car accidents in Fort Worth. When will we know more?

Nearly two years after a mass fatal collision on an icy toll road in Fort Worth involving more than 100 vehicles, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report Wednesday detailing some of the factors that led to the accident.

The council report provides information and details about security changes. after six people died and dozens were injured in the crash. The piling up, which began around 6 a.m. on February 11, 2021, resulted in more than 130 vehicles and semi-trucks sliding into toll lanes on Interstate 35W. Piles of cars stretched over 1,100 feet after the crash, one of the deadliest in Texas history.

Although the 1,400 page report contains new details about the accident, the cause has not yet been determined by the NTSB.

The report does not include the investigators’ conclusions, what they recommend and whether the investigators believe that appropriate precautions were taken to protect the roads and those who drive on them in low temperatures.

However, a recently released report gives a glimpse of what may have happened that day. Here’s what we know:

What did the rescuers see?

Rescuers described a morning of chaos as emergency crews struggled to get to the crash site, which happened about two miles north of downtown Fort Worth between NE 28th Street and Northside Drive, according to a transcript of the interview released by the NTSB. Several rescuers told investigators that their ambulances slid dozens of yards before stopping when they arrived at the scene.

“Everyone who was there was falling, I mean, all the time,” said one Fort Worth fire engineer.

One of the MedStar EMS rescuers said when he first saw the wreckage, “I was probably in a daze for about 30 seconds just because I had never seen anything like it before.”

Another MedStar employee was on his way to work when he became part of the crowd. When he saw stoplights in front of him near 28th Street, he began to loosen his brakes only to start sliding.

The employee told investigators that he swerved his vehicle toward the center barrier in an attempt to brake before colliding with the vehicle in front of him. Then a semi-trailer crashed into his car and he temporarily lost consciousness, he said.

“I can hear cars just rumbling outside,” he recalled after waking up. “After every crash, there was a scream. It was just… it was bone-chilling.”

An ambulance medic told investigators that the section of the toll road had minimal shoulder room and few exits in any direction.

“There was no room to get around anything,” he said. “Everything just piled on and just created a complete barrier, (a) blockage.”

EMS and other first responders said in interviews that they did not see sanding on the toll road where the collision occurred.

“Actually, it’s one of the first things I looked at and thought, ‘You know where the sand is? She described the road as “a sheet of ice”.

The lieutenant said she responded to a weather-related accident earlier in the day at about 3 a.m., about five miles from the congestion on the north lanes of I-35. She told investigators that she notified firefighters that the road was to be filled with sand and said she saw a pickup truck from the North Tarrant Express sanding the roads near the crash site as it drove north.

The role of the road surface has not yet been confirmed

Families and victims of the plane crash blamed the agency that runs North Tarrant Express for not sanding or preparing the toll road properly in advance of the freeze, although the NTSB report did not draw any conclusions about the role of weather conditions.

According to a preliminary report, North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners, a consortium of companies that built and operates the TEXPress toll lanes, said the roads were pre-treated with a saline or salt solution, including two southbound toll lanes in the area of ​​the accident. on the morning of February 9, approximately 44 hours before the crash.

NTE said the optimal time to improve efficiency is to brine roads 1 to 3 days before a storm.

Parts of the toll and common lanes of I-35W were salted, including the entrance and exit ramps, following a 3 a.m. north. It was unclear exactly where these spot treatments took place.

By 3:40 a.m., NTE had activated warning signs warning motorists of black ice, all to the north, about 8 miles from the crash site.

In numerous interviews with NTE, employees have said that brake testing and visual observation are common methods of monitoring ice buildup. Several employees have stated that they have not received formal certifications for random inspection of icy road conditions other than training to operate the equipment during snow and ice.

One employee said, “Basically, they just tell us to drive and stop, and if we skid, you know, that’s pretty much it.”

The inspector who was in charge of adjusting and spot-treating roads for STR confirmed that there was no certification process for spot-checking and that “it’s just training”.

The inspector said that the night before the accident, the crews did not spread salt on the southern toll lanes because “there was no moisture in the area.” He told investigators that he worked about two fewer people than “usually” for the night shift.

Emergency crews work to clear a congestion of casualties on I-35W and Northside Drive in Fort Worth on Thursday, February 11, 2021. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)(Juan Figueroa / staff photographer)

Was speed the deciding factor?

Some documents indicate, but do not conclude, that speed may have played a role in piling up.

Approximately 15 minutes before the collision, the average speed of vehicles on the road According to highway sensors installed by a private toll road operator, the speed in the right lane was 65 miles per hour, and in the left lane it was 82 miles per hour.

The speed limit is 75 miles per hour.

However, the documents show that the average speed jumped to 103 mph at 5:59 am, about 12 minutes before the crash began.

The National Transportation Safety Board didn’t have further details about what caused the brief speed spike, and didn’t say it triggered the crash.

Crews work to clear a large congestion on I-35W and Northside Drive in Fort Worth.
Crews work to clear a congestion on I-35W and Northside Drive in Fort Worth on Thursday, February 11, 2021. (Juan Figueroa/The Dallas Morning News)(Juan Figueroa / staff photographer)

What changes have been made to weather preparation?

Following the accident, North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners changed some of its winter weather operations, although the report notes that the initiatives were taken “regardless of the cause or causes of this particular accident.”

Most of the improvements have been in the hardware.

He doubled the number of his winter-weather-equipped maintenance vehicles from three to six. The company has added three pickup trucks to its fleet, bringing the total to 13. Ten of these trucks can now spray brine, down from only three.

NTEMP added 18 weather sensors that can measure air and pavement temperatures in areas where freezing is most likely to occur. Sensors provide employees with real-time alerts when certain conditions are detected on the road.

What’s next?

The public register includes factual information about the accident, such as weather conditions, road conditions, and vehicle speed. But the 1,400 pages of documents give limited insight into what caused the deadly piling up and recommendations for the future.

A final report with findings, conclusions and recommendations is expected to be published in late winter or early spring, NTSB spokesperson Sara Sulik said. This paper will present an analysis of the investigation, the likely causes of the accident and any other contributing factors.

Sulik added that the report will also include recommendations on how to prevent similar incidents from happening again.

Staff writers Hojun Choi, Nur Adatia, and Sarah Bahari contributed to this report.

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