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Highway Reopens 19 Hours After Fiery Crash

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A tanker truck burst into flames after a wrong-way crash in Fort Worth on March 28, 2011. (credit: KTVT/KTXA)

A tanker truck burst into flames after a wrong-way crash in Fort Worth on March 28, 2011. (credit: KTVT/KTXA)

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updated 3/30 – 6:44 pm

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) The westbound lanes of Interstate 30 in east Fort Worth reopened late Monday night following an early morning wrong-way crash.

Emergency crews with the Fort Worth Fire Department responded to a motor vehicle crash that caused a tanker truck to catch fire, killing one person and injuring another. The accident happened around 2:30 a.m. Monday morning in the westbound lanes of Interstate-30, just west of Beach Street in Fort Worth.

According to emergency officials on the scene, a small red pickup truck was traveling eastbound in those westbound lanes. It is not known where the pickup truck driver entered the highway, heading in the wrong direction. The pickup truck was then involved in the wrong-way collision with a tanker truck.

The tanker truck came to a rest over Sycamore Creek, where it then caught on fire. By the time that crews arrived on the scene to combat the fire, the tanker truck was fully involved.  According to authorities, there was a significant amount of fuel being carried on the tanker truck.

“As a result of that collision the 18-wheeler overturned and exploded into flames and the driver of that 18-wheeler was trapped in the cab,” said Sgt. Pedro Criado.

The driver of the truck, Alejandro Raya, died at the scene.

Raya, from Fort Worth, had only been working for the trucking company for the past year.  He leaves behind a wife and three kids, the oldest of which has epilepsy. His wife Amelia told CBS 11 “It’s not just, the manner in which he died.”  She says she wants ‘the full weight of the law’ to fall on the man who caused the accident.

“It was a shock, because he’s a good man.  A good father.  No one could expect this,” said Gustavo Narez, the victim’s cousin.

The driver of the pickup truck, identified by the Fort Worth Police Department as 23-year-old Louis Nieves, was transported to a nearby hospital. He was later released and booked into prison for charges of intoxication manslaughter.

nieves Highway Reopens 19 Hours After Fiery Crash

Louis Nieves, 23, has been charged with intoxication manslaughter after a fiery wrong-way crash killed the driver of a tanker truck. (credit: Fort Worth Police Department)

“We do know that he was driving possibly under the influence of alcohol,” Sgt. Criado said, “but we don’t know at this point in time where he was actually coming from.”

On Tuesday, the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission announced it launched an investigation into the bars t hat served the 23-year-old. Nieves said he remembered drinking 10 beers that night but does not remember entering the freeway or the crash itself.

Investigators said he was drinking at two bars in the 8th Street area near the Fort Worth Convention Center, but will not release which businesses are under investigation.

TABC officials said they are constructing a timeline of his evening to determine if any of the bars should be held partially responsible for Raya’s death.

The Fort Worth Fire Department placed barriers along Sycamore Creek to prevent hazardous chemicals from running into the water. They also tested the water and found relatively low chemical readings, which indicates very little contamination from the crash. The creek bed below the highway was also dry.

Needless to say, this crash created a traffic nightmare in Fort Worth on Monday morning. Both sides of the highway were shut down immediately following the incident, but the eastbound lanes have since been re-opened.

Steve Higbee of Fort Worth was one of hundreds of drivers stuck on the highway after the accident.  “I was in there probably about an hour and 45 minutes,” Higbee said.

The fiery crash did extensive damage to the highway and the bridge over Sycamore Creek. At least a portion of it has been deemed unsafe for travel.

Officials with the Texas Department of Transportation kept all westbound lanes closed for much of Monday, while officials worked to clear the scene and into the evening as crews did temporary repairs and set up concrete barriers.

A statement from TxDOT said, “Several steel beams will need to be designed, manufactured and replaced, including reconstructing a portion of the bridge’s substructure and concrete deck.”

TxDOT estimates that this work will take ‘several months.’ During that time, only the two left lanes of westbound Interstate-30 in Fort Worth will be open to traffic, and the I-30 on-ramp from Beach Street will remain closed.

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