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Feds say speeding, failure to de-ice I-35W, led to fatal 133 vehicle pileup in Fort Worth

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This week, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report on the cause of a massive 2021 pileup in Texas that claimed the lives of six people.

The March 23 NTSB report looked into the causes of a pileup that occurred on I-35W in Fort Worth, Texas, on February 11, 2021, during a winter storm.

A total of 133 passenger and commercial vehicles were involved in the pileup on an elevated section of the southbound toll lanes. Six people died and 36 others were hospitalized with injuries.

Officials say that the pileup began shortly after 6 a.m. when a vehicle struck a concrete barrier near the Northside Drive exit. Other vehicles then began to “slide, spin, and strike barriers.”

“At 6:13 a.m., a large truck crashed into some of the disabled vehicles that were blocking the travel lanes. Other vehicles that were unable to stop led to a complex, multi-vehicle crash blocking all southbound toll lanes,” the report states.

The NTSB reports that the company responsible for de-icing the interstate where the pileup occurred failed to properly monitor and respond to the road conditions following 36 consecutive hours of below-freezing temperatures. 

From the NTSB:

“North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners Segment 3 (NTEMP S3), the company responsible for operations and maintenance on the I-35W right of way, had pretreated the two southbound lanes with a liquid brine solution 44 hours before the crash. On Feb. 11, company employees spot-treated some sections of roadway with salt, but they did not treat the elevated portion of I-35W where the multi-vehicle crash occurred. Maintenance crews drove north on I-35W about 45 minutes before the crash and visually checked the road, but they detected no moisture and applied no salt. NTSB investigators found that NTEMP S3’s roadway monitoring process was deficient because, as precipitation and freezing temperatures continued and conditions deteriorated on the morning of Feb. 11, company personnel did not identify the elevated portion of I-35W as needing additional de-icing treatment, which left the roadway surface icy.”

Investigators also found that drivers traveling too fast for conditions contributed to the pileup.

As a result of the investigation, the NTSB is recommending that Texas officials deploy variable speed-limit signs, use sensors to reduce response times during inclement weather, and provide training to companies maintaining the roadways on how to respond during winter storms.

Other NTSB recommendations include automated speed enforcement and increased connected vehicle technology deployment.

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