FORT WORTH, Texas (NewsNation Now) — Six people are dead and multiple people were trapped in vehicles after a pileup on a Texas freeway involving about 133 cars, officials said Thursday afternoon.
“The scene we saw today is one, really unlike one we have ever seen, and we pray to God we never see it again, ” described Fort Worth Police Chief Neil Noakes.
At the scene of the crash on Interstate 35 near downtown Fort Worth, a tangle of semitrailers, cars and trucks had smashed into each other and had turned every which way, with some vehicles on top of others.
“The vehicles are just mangled,” Matt Zavadsky, spokesman for MedStar, which provides the ambulance service for the area, said earlier Thursday. “Multiple tow trucks are on scene. It’s going to take a lot to disentangle this wreck.”
At least 65 people were treated at hospitals, with 36 of them taken by ambulance from the crash site, including three with critical injuries, said Matt Zavadsky, spokesman for MedStar, which provides the ambulance service for the area. Numerous others were treated at the scene and released, he said.
The crash happened just after 6 a.m. Thursday morning as many hospital and emergency workers were heading to and from work, so some of those involved were health care workers and emergency responders, including police officers, officials said.
“We did see a large number of people that were victims of this accident that were in scrubs, that had hospital IDs on … in some cases, our folks would know those folks,” Zavadsky said.
“We have about 133 cars that were involved in the accident,” Chief Noakes said, noting that there may be more vehicles added to that total. He said four officers were injured, three that were en route to work and one injured while working the scene. All officers have been released from the hospital and none suffered serious injuries.
Officials Thursday afternoon said they searched every car possible for anyone still trapped, and they believe everyone has been extricated.
“There were multiple people that were trapped within the confines of their vehicles and requiring the use of hydraulic rescue equipment to successfully extricate them,” said Fort Worth Fire Chief Jim Davis.
Zavadsky said his crews carry a sand and salt mixture in the ambulances, which they began using at the scene. At one point, he said, one of the ambulances was hit, but it sustained only minor damage and the crew members were fine.
“The roadway was so treacherous from the ice that several of the first responders were falling on the scene,” Zavadsky said. Officials confirmed ice was a factor in the pileup.
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A reporter asked if the roadway had been treated prior to the accident.
“That is going to be part of the ongoing investigation,” Chief Noakes said. “It is my understanding that NTE TEXpress has released a statement that should be made available but we will definitely be getting more information out about that when we have that information as part of our investigation.”
NewsNation called and emailed NTE TEXpress multiple times Thursday to obtain that statement; they did not respond as of Thursday night. Friday, they sent the following statement to NewsNation affiliate KXAN:
We join the greater community in our thoughts for the accident victims, their families, and those recovering. NTE & NTE35W maintenance crews started pre-treating the corridors on Tuesday morning in anticipation of inclement weather, and have been treating continuously as they monitor the roadway. We will continue treating the highways through the weekend and into next week, as long as the storm is active. Our crews treat the entire corridor, managed lanes, general purpose lanes, frontage roads and ramps, and operate under the same procedure as the Texas Department of Transportation. Additionally, our message boards throughout the corridors have been alerting drivers of the adverse weather conditions and encouraging them to drive with caution. Currently, the crews are assisting emergency responders to manage the accident scene and clean up in order to reopen the corridor, safely.Robert Hinkle
Police set up a reunification center for family members at a community center.
Zavadsky said the number of people who sought medical care from hospitals after the crash is likely to continue to increase.
“This is an incident that our agencies train for, but hope and pray never happens,” Zavadsky said. “This was an unbelievable scene.”
“And in the face of heartbreak just remember everyone involved in this from the patients to the victims, our first responders, the medical personnel, because it is incredibly hard on them working an accident like this,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.
Agencies were still on the scene, which officials describe as a “very large geographic area,” as of Thursday afternoon.
Police previously issued a winter weather advisory for Tarrant County until Thursday at 3 p.m. The National Weather Service said light showers of freezing rain and sleet were expected throughout the morning.
Elsewhere, ice storm warnings were in effect from Arkansas to Kentucky, while another winter storm was predicted to bring snow to Mid-Atlantic states, the National Weather Service said.
Officials also asked for any witnesses with video of the scene that might help the investigation reach out to the Fort Worth Police non-emergency number: 817-392-4222
The Associated Press contributed to this report