As ice and freezing rain blew into the state of Texas, cars and trucks skittered on the road, leading to one of the deadliest and worst automobile accidents in modern history. In total, more than a hundred vehicles landed in a pile-up on Interstate 35W just north of downtown Fort Worth.
At least six people died, and 65 were rushed to local hospitals. But one of the survivors, Rebecca Benson, a local nurse, managed to crawl out from under the wreckage and show up to work.
Now, that’s what we call determination.
A Nasty Commute
Benson says it was a normal day when she got up and headed to work like usual. She heard the weather was going to be bad, but the roads seemed fine – at least at first.
That’s when she came upon the dreaded black ice, when water freezes on the pavement, leaving drivers little time to react.
As Benson recalls:
“As soon as I hit that bridge, [there was] black ice. My car started to spin out a little bit, but nothing crazy, and so I adjusted. While I was coming around the corner, I see the cars in front of me. I’m trying to not spin out and to figure out if I can stop. I mean, my foot was as close to going through the floorboard as it possibly could be. And I realized that there’s no stopping. So, there was a Coca-Cola semi and a car hauler semi that had kind of made almost like a triangle. So, I pointed the car there and prayed to God that I would be okay and that’s when I hit them.”
Her car got caught in the onslaught of vehicles piling up on the road. She says she tried to remain calm in the driver’s seat, but the entire vehicle shook every time a new car or semi collided with the group.
And traffic wasn’t letting up.
“I looked in my rearview mirror and can see all of these cars heading towards me. So, I think that was the scariest part, knowing that I survived this part but now the chances of me getting completely smashed by all the cars and semis behind me,” Benson told ABC’s World News Tonight.
She describes the entire scene like something out of a “zombie movie”. The problem quickly spiraled out of control as more cars piled on top of each other.
“I could hear something on my roof and saw little legs coming down my windshield. Somebody ended up opening the back of my car and asking if I was okay. And then I was able to actually get out because all my doors were completely blocked,” she said.
That’s when Benson made her escape.
She managed to wedge herself out of the back of the car and immediately called a co-worker, who happened to be nearby on their way to work.
Two hours later, due to poor weather and traffic conditions along the route, they finally got to work at the local hospital where they worked a half shift.
Surviving the Crash
After a brutal day, Benson says her husband convinced her to seek medical attention.
“My husband was like, ‘We need to get to the hospital.’ So, I worked until things kind of cleared up, and then got a ride and came to the hospital to get checked out,” Benson said. “I have neck pain, shoulder pain, and my left elbow is bruised to the high-heavens and, you know, typical aches and pains that you would have. But I am unbelievably blessed.”
Officials say the pile-up started at around 6:30 AM local time. The crash spanned a half a mile down the road.
The search and rescue process took hours. Over the course of several hours, there were 26 Fire Department vehicles, 80 police cars and 13 ambulances on the scene, according to authorities.
During a recent press conference, MedStar spokesman Matt Zavadsky said many of those involved appear to have been healthcare workers, including many who were wearing scrubs and gowns.
“Typically, shift change for the hospitals and places downtown [is] going to be 7 o’clock,” he said. “So, we did see a lot of people that were health care workers that were a part of this crash.”
North Texas storm chaser Jason McLaughlin discussed the incident on The Weather Channel. “It looks like a couple of vehicles lost control, and when that happened, everything just piled up behind them,” he said.
Government representatives are investigating the matter, after State Rep. Ramon Romero Jr. and state Sen. Beverly Powell revealed on Twitter that the road hadn’t been properly treated with salt or sand before the storm.
“My office is asking many questions and demanding answers,” Romero said. “We have already had multiple discussions about this tollway’s bottleneck design and lack of common sense safety measures such as a shoulder.”
More information will likely come to light over the next few days.