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Storm Shirley: Six killed in 133-car pile-up in Fort Worth, Texas

The six victims who were killed in a 133 car pile-up on a Texas freeway Thursday morning have been identified. 

The tragedy occurred along Interstate 35 near Fort Worth shortly after 6am, with shocking video showing a FedEx truck plowing into a barrier after losing control on an icy downhill stretch of road, killing six people.  

Dozens of vehicles travelling behind the truck subsequently smashed into one another, with the crash site stretching back for 1.5 miles. 

The victims have been identified as 34-year-old Tiffany Gerred, Aaron Watson, 45, Michael Wells, 47, Christopher Vardy, 49, William Williams, 54, and 46-year-old Tamara Mendoza Querales.  

Gerred was an employee with the Tarrant County District Clerk’s office, according to CBS.

Tom Wilder, the head of the clerk’s office, called Gerred ‘a beacon of light with her energetic personality’.

Watson’s family confirmed his death. He had two sons and was described as ‘a giver’ to his family and to his work.  

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The six victims who were killed in a 133 car pile-up on a Texas freeway Thursday morning have been identified. The victims have been identified as 34-year-old Tiffany Gerred (pictured)

The six victims who were killed in a 133 car pile-up on a Texas freeway Thursday morning have been identified. The victims have been identified as 34-year-old Tiffany Gerred (pictured) 

The six victims who were killed in a 133 car pile-up on a Texas freeway Thursday morning have been identified. The victims have been identified as 34-year-old Tiffany Gerred (left)

The six victims who were killed in a 133 car pile-up on a Texas freeway Thursday morning have been identified. The victims have been identified as 34-year-old Tiffany Gerred (left)

The six victims who were killed in a 133 car pile-up on a Texas freeway Thursday morning have been identified. The victims have been identified as 34-year-old Tiffany Gerred (left)

Aaron Watson

Aaron Watson

Michael Wells

Michael Wells

Aaron Watson (left), 45, and Michael Wells (right), 47, were both victims in the pile-up last week  

Christopher Vardy (pictured), 49, was identified as one of the victims killed in pile-up on Thursday morning

Christopher Vardy (pictured), 49, was identified as one of the victims killed in pile-up on Thursday morning

Christopher Vardy

Christopher Vardy

Christopher Vardy (left and right), 49, was identified as one of the victims killed in pile-up on Thursday morning 

In a statement to CBS, Wells’ family shared: ‘Mike was a great friend to many. He never met a stranger and would do anything for anyone. Our family will never be the same.’

The tragedy was caused by Winter Storm Shirley, which wreaked havoc on many southern states, brought freezing temperatures to the area overnight Thursday, making the roads unusually icy. 

First responders described the scene as a ‘mass casualty incident’ with crushed cars stacked on top of one another and helpless drivers stuck inside.  

The death toll was initially reported at five, before officials confirmed a sixth fatality on Thursday evening. 

Investigators confirmed that 36 of the 65 people who were injured were taken to local hospitals via ambulance. 

One Medstar official said no children were among the seriously injured.  

An investigation into the cause of the crash is now underway, with local politicians now questioning whether the roads were properly prepared for the wet and slippery conditions that had been forecast.  

The tragedy was caused by Winter Storm Shirley, which wreaked havoc on many southern states, brought freezing temperatures to the area overnight Thursday, making the roads unusually icy. Investigators confirmed that 36 of the 65 people who were injured were taken to local hospitals via ambulance

The tragedy was caused by Winter Storm Shirley, which wreaked havoc on many southern states, brought freezing temperatures to the area overnight Thursday, making the roads unusually icy. Investigators confirmed that 36 of the 65 people who were injured were taken to local hospitals via ambulance

The tragedy was caused by Winter Storm Shirley, which wreaked havoc on many southern states, brought freezing temperatures to the area overnight Thursday, making the roads unusually icy. Investigators confirmed that 36 of the 65 people who were injured were taken to local hospitals via ambulance

The FedEx truck that was filmed at the start of the crash after losing control and plowing into one of the barriers

The FedEx truck that was filmed at the start of the crash after losing control and plowing into one of the barriers

The FedEx truck that was filmed at the start of the crash after losing control and plowing into one of the barriers

Firefighters were seen making their way through vehicles on Thursday afternoon trying to find survivors

Firefighters were seen making their way through vehicles on Thursday afternoon trying to find survivors

Firefighters were seen making their way through vehicles on Thursday afternoon trying to find survivors 

‘I’ve got lots of good friends that are both on the police department and fire department and I asked them to tell me what they saw there… We can’t see evidence of any protection of deicing techniques that were performed,’ Fort Worth state Rep Ramon Romero told  

Romero told the news network he plans to hold a hearing to question North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners –  the company that maintains the stretch of privately operated freeway where the crash occurred. 

In a statement the company told NBC 5: ‘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.’  

One first responder told NBC 5 that stretch of road ‘was solid ice when police and firefighters first arrived.’ Rescue workers were allegedly slipping on the ice as they attempted to reach victims inside their cars. Some had to lay salt and sand over the road in order to mitigate the slippery conditions. 

Late on Thursday, Forth Worth Mayor Besty Price released a statement saying her ‘heart is broken’ over the tragedy.  

‘So many people have lost their loved ones or had them injured and that pain is just incredible, this whole community will feel that pain,’ she stated.  

A crumbled car seen as it was towed away from the crash site on Thursday afternoon

A crumbled car seen as it was towed away from the crash site on Thursday afternoon

A crumbled car seen as it was towed away from the crash site on Thursday afternoon

A crane is seen lifting out a damaged truck from the pile-up on Thursday afternoon

A crane is seen lifting out a damaged truck from the pile-up on Thursday afternoon

A crane is seen lifting out a damaged truck from the pile-up on Thursday afternoon 

The scene appeared almost too much to bear for one rescue worker as he walked away from a destroyed vehicle

The scene appeared almost too much to bear for one rescue worker as he walked away from a destroyed vehicle

The scene appeared almost too much to bear for one rescue worker as he walked away from a destroyed vehicle 

Texas is now getting another frigid blast of winter weather and has plunged the state into an unusually icy emergency Monday that knocked out power to more than 2 million people and shut down grocery stores and dangerously snowy roads.

The worsening conditions halted the delivery of COVID-19 vaccine shipments and left some Texas providers scrambling to find takers for doses expiring within hours.

Temperatures nosedived into the single-digits as far south as San Antonio, and homes that had already been without electricity for hours had no certainty about when the lights and heat would come back on, as the state’s overwhelmed power grid throttled into rotating blackouts that are typically only seen in 100-degree Fahrenheit summers.

The storm was part of a massive system that brought snow, sleet and freezing rain to the southern Plains and was spreading across the Ohio Valley and to the Northeast. 

The Southwest Power Pool, a group of utilities across 14 states, called for rolling outages because the supply of reserve energy had been exhausted. Some utilities said they were starting blackouts, while others urged customers to reduce power usage.

‘We’re living through a really historic event going on right now,’ said Jason Furtado, a professor of meteorology at the University of Oklahoma, pointing to all of Texas under a winter storm warning and the extent of the freezing temperatures.

In Houston, where county leaders had warned that the freeze could create problems on the scale of massive hurricanes that slam the Gulf Coast, one electric provider said power may not be restored to some homes until Tuesday.

Firefighters rescued several dogs from the wreckage on Thursday afternoon. It's unclear if any animals died

Firefighters rescued several dogs from the wreckage on Thursday afternoon. It's unclear if any animals died

Firefighters rescued several dogs from the wreckage on Thursday afternoon. It’s unclear if any animals died

Vehicles were seen piled up after a fatal crash on Interstate 35 near Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday

Vehicles were seen piled up after a fatal crash on Interstate 35 near Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday

Vehicles were seen piled up after a fatal crash on Interstate 35 near Fort Worth, Texas on Thursday

‘This weather event, it’s really unprecedented. We all living here know that,’ said Dan Woodfin, senior director of system operations at the Electric Reliability Council of Texas. 

He defended preparations made by grid operators and described the demand on the system as record-setting.

‘This event was well beyond the design parameters for a typical, or even an extreme, Texas winter that you would normally plan for. And so that is really the result that we’re seeing,’ Woodfin said.

The largest grocery store chain in Texas, H-E-B, closed locations around Austin and San Antonio, cities that are unaccustomed to snow and have little resources to clear roads. 

The slow thaw and more frigid lows ahead was also taking a toll on Texas’ distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

State health officials said Texas, which was due to receive more than 400,000 additional vaccine doses this week, now does not expect deliveries to occur until at least Wednesday.

Air travel was also affected. By midmorning, 3,000 flights had been canceled across the country, about 1,600 of them at Dallas/Fort Worth International and Bush Intercontinental airports in Texas. At DFW, the temperature was 4 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 3 degrees colder than Moscow.

The storm arrived over a three-day holiday weekend that has seen the most US air travel since the period around New Year’s.

More than 1 million people went through airport security checkpoints on Thursday and Friday. However, that was still less than half the traffic of a year ago, before the pandemic hit with full force.

The southern Plains had been gearing up for the winter weather for the better part of the weekend. Texas Gov Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for all of the state’s 254 counties. 

Abbott, Oklahoma Gov Kevin Stitt and Arkansas Gov Asa Hutchinson each activated National Guard units to assist state agencies with tasks including rescuing stranded drivers.

President Joe Biden also declared an emergency in Texas in a statement Sunday night. The declaration is intended to add federal aid to state and local response efforts.


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bourbiza

Bourbiza Mohamed. Writer and Political Discourse Analysis.

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