Fort Worth

‘Cars Are Just Smashed': One Year Later, Fort Worth Victims Recall Massive I-35 Pileup

Multiple lawsuits seek to assign blame

NBCUniversal, Inc.

A year after the worst pileup in Fort Worth history, survivors remember the tragedy as if it were yesterday as multiple lawsuits aim to hold someone responsible.

On Feb. 11, 2021, six people died in a pileup involving more than 130 vehicles along I-35 near Northside Drive.

The frantic 911 calls streamed in one after the other.

"There's an 18-wheeler, there's a truck, I mean, cars are just smashed totally,” a woman reported, her voice breaking.

One of the first calls was from Steve Sibley, a Fort Worth business owner who was on his way to work that morning.

"I'm right in the middle of it,” he told a 911 operator.

"I actually ended up on top of another car,” he said in an interview Tuesday.

Around him, cars and big trucks were slamming into each other on a sheet of ice.

"There was just no way to stop. Shoo. Right in,” he said.

The biggest pileup in Fort Worth history is now the subject of multiple lawsuits, blaming big rig drivers for going too fast, and the toll road operator, North Tarrant Express, of not making sure the highway was safe.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board doesn't assign blame but notes the tollway operator pre-treated that stretch of road nearly two full days before the pileup -- and did nothing after that despite freezing temperatures and falling precipitation.

Beaumont attorney Keith Hyde represents the family of Aaron Watson, who died in the crash, leaving behind a wife and 10-year-old son.

"They had notice at least five or six hours before of these icy conditions and yet nothing was done,” Hyde said.

If nobody is held responsible for what happened, the same thing could happen again, he said.

"We've got to do better than what has been done, and that's straightforward,” Hyde said.

"Praise God I wasn't injured..."

For his part, Sibley blames the pileup on Mother Nature.

"That was strictly an issue of the Lord decided he wanted to put some ice on the road and there was some ice on the road. There wasn't anything anybody could do about it,” Sibley said.

North Tarrant Express has defended its actions.

"Safety is, and always has been, a top priority in our daily operations for the thousands of motorists that we serve every day,” NTE said in a statement released Tuesday. It said it was closely monitoring conditions with another winter storm predicted this week and had already started to pre-treat roadways.

Contact Us