What to Know
- Six people killed in massive pileup; 65 people treated at hospitals for injuries including 36 who were taken by ambulance
- Officials estimate at least 133 vehicles were involved in the pileups
- Crashes occurred in the southbound, interior North Texas Express toll lanes of Interstate 35W
At least six people have died and dozens more were injured in a massive pileup involving at least 133 vehicles on the North Texas Express toll lanes in Fort Worth early Thursday morning that occurred after overnight sleet made for treacherous driving conditions.
All lanes of Interstate 35W north of downtown, including the interior toll lanes where the crashes took place, are expected to remain closed for several hours Thursday as dozens of firefighters and other first responders continue to work in bitterly cold temperatures to clear the damaged vehicles from the highway.
Dubbed a "mass casualty incident" by firefighters earlier in the day, officials said during a news conference Thursday afternoon that at least 65 people are receiving treatment at area hospitals including 36 who were transported from the scene by ambulance.
The names of those killed in the crash will be released after their families have been notified of their deaths.
At the scene of the crash, which stretches for more than a half-mile in the southbound toll lanes between NE 28th Street and Northside Drive, a tangle of semitrailers, cars and trucks had crashed into each other and had turned every which way, with some vehicles on top of others.
The two toll lanes are within two concrete barrier walls, leaving little room if any, for disabled drivers to escape the oncoming traffic.
A family reunification location was set up for families to pick up and meet drivers or passengers involved in the pileup. The location is the Riverside Community Center at 3700 East Belknap Street. Those trying to reach loved ones involved in the crash are asked to call 817-546-7826.
NBC 5 Meteorologist Grant Johnston said a tenth of an inch of ice fell in parts of North Texas during the morning commute, which resulted in ice accumulations on many roads, bridges and overpasses.
Mike Drivdahl with the Fort Worth Fire Department said Thursday morning that firefighters were going car-to-car, looking for people in need of medical care.
“The vehicles are just mangled,” said Zavadsky. “Multiple tow trucks are on scene. It’s going to take a lot to disentangle this wreck.”
As many as 100 cars are estimated to be tangled in the pileup, Zavadski said. Authorities said it will "take a lot of time" to clear the damage and are recommending people stay home and off the roads if possible.
"If you don't have to get out, please don't get out," Drivdahl said in a live phone interview on NBC 5. "We have a lot of emergency crews doing a lot of work. The last thing we need is people who don't need to be out getting into any type of accidents."
Rescue crews faced slippery conditions and used anything they could -- sand, salt and kitty litter -- to melt the ice as they triaged patients injured in the crash, Drivdahl said.
“The roadway was so treacherous from the ice that several of the first responders were falling on the scene,” Zavadsky said.
He 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.
Drivdahl said crews expect to keep the interstate closed for several hours.
Elsewhere in DFW, three people were killed in two crashes in Dallas overnight and a pedestrian was killed while crossing a street in Arlington.