Fort Worth

North Tarrant Express Refutes NTSB Claim They Failed to De-Ice Before 130-Car Pileup

NTEMP S3 says they patrolled the highway in trucks with salt, including elevated areas where trouble spots formed

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The company responsible for maintaining a Texas interstate where 130 vehicles crashed in icy conditions two years ago, killing six, disagrees with an NTSB report saying they failed to address the deteriorating road conditions.

That portion of Interstate 35 West in Fort Worth was not treated with salt the morning of the Feb. 11, 2021, crash, the National Transportation Safety Board said. The NTSB said that the failure of North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners Segment 3 to address the conditions contributed to the crash, as did drivers’ speeds.

The NTSB said that because of the forecasted freezing rain and sleet, North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners Segment 3 had pretreated the southbound lanes of I-35W two days earlier with a liquid brine solution. But, the NTSB said, crews checking the road about 45 minutes before the crash didn’t recognize that the elevated portion of the interstate where the crash occurred needed additional de-icing treatment.

A spokesman for North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners told NBC 5 they reviewed the NTSB's final report and were "disappointed" and that they strongly disagreed with some of the conclusions.

"We want to reaffirm that we fully activated our winter storm program leading up to and throughout the winter storm event, and that we coordinate with TxDOT on best practices for snow and ice control in North Texas," NTE Mobility Partners told NBC 5. "Specifically, and as noted in the NTSB report, we pretreated the corridor well within the prescribed pretreatment window and during the storm, and our crews monitored the entire length of the I-35W corridor, including elevated areas to identify any potential ice formation."

NTE Mobility Partners said they patrolled the highway around the clock in trucks with salt to de-ice trouble spots, including about 45 minutes before the first indication of rain in the area.

"Video footage from the morning of February 11 confirmed that precipitation began mere minutes before the accident unfolded," NTE Mobility Partners said. "Hours earlier, we had posted dynamic signage within the vicinity of the accident site, warning drivers of icy conditions and to drive with caution. We also had deployed permanent signage warning drivers that bridges could ice in cold weather."

The NTSB said a series of crashes began at 6:04 a.m. when a driver struck a concrete barrier near Northside Drive. From there, other vehicles in the southbound toll lanes "began to slide, spin and strike the barriers" and at 6:13 a.m. a large truck crashed into the disabled vehicles.

"Other vehicles that were unable to stop led to a complex, multivehicle crash blocking all southbound toll lanes," the NTSB said.

NTSB investigators also reported that drivers were traveling at speeds too fast for winter weather conditions and that speed contributed to the severity of the crashes.

The NTSB said that as a result of their investigation, they recommend variable speed-limit signs be installed and that sensors be added to reduce response times to weather-related hazardous conditions. They also recommend Texas toll road operators train on how to better respond to winter storms.

The full highway investigative report is available on the NTSB's website.

NBC 5 and the Associated Press
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