FORT WORTH - After a nine-vehicle pileup in Fort Worth early yesterday, five people are dead. There were 17 people involved in the accident altogether.
According to police, the accident started out small - a two-vehicle wreck on I-30 between Oakland Boulevard and Beach Street. However, a semi-truck also wrecked and caught fire, and the collisions continued from there.
So far, two victims have been identified: 43-year-old Veronica Gonzalez and 42-year-old Mary Hernandez.
After huge multi-vehicle wrecks like this one, a few steps must be taken to determine who's at fault. Determining fault ("blame") for the accident is important because if one driver can be held responsible for the wreck, their insurance will also be responsible for paying the victims' medical bills, lost wages and damages. Additionally, they'll compensate the families who wrongfully lost a loved one.
Since truck wrecks tend to involve more catastrophic injuries, it's especially important that care and attention is placed on the post-wreck investigation. In this instance, I see one glaring question: why did the truck wreck into the vehicles? Was the driver not paying attention? Were they speeding? Or was the accident unavoidable?
The accident reconstructionist will look to see if the truck had an on-board camera. These can help answer some of the questions by providing a look at the trucker and the road ahead before the accident.
Additionally, all trucks have black boxes that show the speed the truck was traveling and also record braking information. If the trucker failed to hit the brakes until it was too late, this might indicate that they had not seen the wreck at all.
Of course, there's no assuming anything in cases like this one. Trucks are large and difficult to stop - in general, it takes trucks 40 percent longer to come to a halt than a passenger vehicle. Though truckers know to take this into consideration when driving, it still affects their reaction time in the event of a collision.
So what happens next? The victims of this wreck will hire personal injury attorneys to gather all the information, including vital data from the scene of the collision. Their attorneys will be responsible for putting a case together to win compensation for their clients' injuries and wrongful deaths.
UPDATE: April 16, 2015
A third victim of the pileup has been identified as Clarissa Banda-Castillo, 18. Banda-Castillo was Gonzalez's younger sister. A fourth victim was also identified as Steve Franklin, though no other information on him is available at this time.
According to families, Gonzalez and Banda-Castillo were driving when they came upon the initial wreck and stopped on the side of the road. The girls got out to help, but that's when the semi-truck came barreling in. In the chaos and the fire, what happened next was unclear, but Banda-Castillo ended up at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas. She suffered severe brain damage.