NBC 5 Investigates is learning more about the road conditions and how some first responders say they were stunned by the amount of ice on the pavement where at least 133 vehicles crashed into one another along I-35W in Fort Worth early Thursday morning.
One first responder who was at the scene Thursday morning told NBC 5 Investigates that stretch of road was solid ice when police and firefighters first arrived. That source spoke on the condition that NBC 5 not identify them because the investigation into the crash is still underway.
They said the pavement was so treacherous firefighters were slipping on ice as they tried to reach the victims, and one vehicle slid into a MedStar ambulance that had responded to the scene.
A Fort Worth fire department spokesman confirms firefighters and paramedics had to get sand and salt out of their own trucks and even bring in additional sand to create areas so that they could walk safely.
In eyewitness videos posted on Facebook, showing the crash as it happened, there does not appear to be the sound of skidding or braking, and vehicles don't seem to slow before impact, suggesting the road was very slick.
Fort Worth state representative Ramon Romero tells NBC 5 he spoke with first responders who told him there was so much ice, it appeared that the road may not have been treated prior to the crash or that the treatment as not effective.
“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. And, you know, their concerns were that man, these folks just couldn't stop…. We're not sure, can't see evidence of any protection of deicing techniques that were performed,” said Romero.
Representative Romero said he plans to call for hearings in Austin soon, to question the company that maintains that stretch of privately operated tollway.
North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners maintains the lanes along that part of I-35W.
The company sent NBC 5 Investigates the following statement Thursday saying its crews have been treating the roads and continuously monitoring them since Tuesday in anticipation of inclement weather.
"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,” the North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners Statement said.
It's important to note, some products used to treat roads can become less effective when pavement temperatures drop below a certain level, another factor investigators may probe as they ask more questions about what caused this tragedy.