fort worth pileup

Moments of Panic, Urgency Heard Through 911 Calls in Deadly Fort Worth Pileup

The crash in February involving 133 vehicles killed at least six people, injuring dozens

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Newly released 911 calls on the morning of the deadly massive pileup along a Fort Worth highway recount the harrowing moments for both crash victims and first responders.

The redacted version of the 911 calls released to NBC 5 on Wednesday is more than two hours long. Calls started on the early morning hours of Feb. 11, when at least six people were killed in a collision involving 133 vehicles along I-35W.

“I don’t know what happened. I just…I hit a patch of ice, I guess. Air bag hit me in the face pretty hard,” one caller said. “There were other cars. It looks like they had wrecked, as well. I think I hit one of them.”

The calls from frantic drivers and passengers were continuous as operators tried to keep them calm.

“People don’t always think about the 911 call taker and the stress and psychological trauma that they experience taking these calls,” said Matt Zavadsky with MedStar.

Zavadsky said their agency has since reviewed the tragic day from start to finish, examining their own response and strategies.

By and large, he said their overall response was the best they could do. However, their “after action” review pointed out two items they felt could be improved upon.

“We were keeping in constant communication with the hospitals but it was by telephone, which required a lot of phone calls, a lot of people to do that. We have the capability of linking all the hospitals together with us on a radio frequency, so we’re going to do that from now on,” he explained. “Second is the operation of the am-bus. We’ve used our ambulance bus more in the past 45 days than we have in the last two years, so getting our staff a little more familiarity, activating it sooner, are a couple of things we are going to do better next time around.”

‘Next time’ is something Zavadsky said they hope never comes again, but they have to prepare for the worst.

“You’ve got the bus crashes. You’ve got the airplane crashes, active shooters. We train for all of those things,” he said. “This particular event was something we might train for in general, but it was much greater than any type of event we could have imagined.”

“After action” reviews are common for agencies like MedStar, Fort Worth Police Department, and the Fort Worth Fire Department. Zavadsky said they expect to complete a joint review soon.

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