A man and a young woman were killed in a wrong-way crash early Thursday, leaving two families grieving having been touched by tragedy.
The crash happened at about 1 a.m. Thursday on state Highway 287 in Grand Prairie near Farm-to-Market Road 661.
Police are investigating how John Layton, a 46-year-old husband and father from Mansfield, wound up driving southbound in the northbound lanes of 287 before he crashed into a Watauga woman, 20-year-old Alex Ford.
“Their hearts are in pieces,” said Pastor Paul Mints.
Mints said Layton’s family can’t believe he’s gone. Loved ones say the Grand Prairie elementary school music teacher and local guitarist may have been out practicing with his band Wednesday night.
“They don’t know if he had a late-night practice rehearsal. They don’t know if it was late, he was tired and trying to get home,” said Mints.
Layton never made it home to Mansfield.
Police say at about 1 a.m. a witness called 911 from highway 287, near state Highway 360, to report a silver Kia driving the wrong way. Police said the caller followed him for 1.6 miles and witnessed the deadly wreck unfold near Lakeview Drive.
Layton crashed head-on into a Honda CR-V, driven by Ford. Layton’s Kia burst into flames. Firefighters put out the fire and discovered both drivers had died after being pinned by the impact. There were no other occupants in the vehicles.
“He will be missed in ways we can’t calculate at this point. He loved being on stage, he was a great musician, he felt comfortable there. But also someone who deeply loved his daughter, his family,” said Mints.
Layton’s loved ones said they’re also grieving for the Ford family.
“Paula’s tears are not just her own, but for the family of the young lady killed as well. Life is a gift,” Mints said.
So many lives have been changed in an instant.
Ford was a recent graduate of Richland High School and was attending Tarrant County College with hopes of going on to the University of Texas. Ford's family said she was returning home from her boyfriend's home when the crash took place. When she didn't return home, they went to look for her.
“You hear about accidents like that and you just never think it’s going to happen to you or your family,” said Ford’s cousin, Melissa Jones. "The amount of people that we’ve had to tell today and that have come over and shown their support, you know how many lives she’s been involved in -- she’s touched ... Just had the greatest heart. It sucks."
"My first reaction was this is a terrible joke. My second immediate reaction was, 'I’ve got to get there as soon as I can," said Jordan Ford, Alex's brother. "What I miss most is the fact that I’ll never get to give her another hug. I didn’t do that enough. I didn’t talk to her enough. I’m going to miss just being able to text her and ask her how her day is going ... see how she’s doing. I’m going to miss having a little sister to be proud of no matter what she’s doing."
Ford's family and friends she was full of life, nice to everyone and had an amazing heart.
"I love her and I know her life was short lived, but she lived every moment to the fullest and took advantage of every opportunity," said Christine Cermack, friend, who drove from College Station overnight to be with the Ford family. "She impacted more people’s lives than she probably realized and we will never forget her."
Police are waiting for results from the autopsy and toxicology tests to determine if alcohol played a role in the crash.
These are the 6th and 7th traffic fatalities in Grand Prairie this year.
Editor's note: In our initial report, we reported that police said a member of Layton's family told officers that he may have been drinking. Pastor Paul Mints told NBC 5 that neither Layton's wife, sister or mother-in-law said that. Who may have told police that information remains unclear.
NBC 5's Amanda Guerra contributed to this report.