By JESSIE HORTON
July 31, 2019
This post was updated at 8:41 p.m.
HAMILTON COUNTY –– A three-vehicle wreck has claimed the lives of two and closed US 281 for several hours as crews worked the scene and then repair the roadway.
At approxiamtely 9 a.m. Wednesday morning Hamilton County first responders received word of a three-truck crash on US 281 about 1.5 miles north of Hico, but south of the State Highway 6 split. Initial reports indicated the collision resulted in at least one explosion.
Upon arrival, Hamilton EMS and Hico VFD reported the flames from two of the 18-wheelers involved in the crash were burning so hot they could not get close. The smoke could be seen as far away as Somervell County. TXDOT officials were called due to a possible hazmat issue as well as the fire damaging the roadway.
First responders from Hamilton County called for assistance from Erath County Fire Rescue & EMS, Harbin VFD, Selden VFD and Carlton VFD.
Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers responded to the scene as well. Upon arrival, they found a 2019 Volvo truck-tractor semi-trailer (TTST) was traveling northbound and a 2015 Freightliner TTST was traveling southbound. A 2011 Mack TTST was traveling southbound, behind the Freightliner.
According to the DPS investigation report, the Volvo crossed over onto the wrong side of the roadway into the path of the Freightliner and the two vehicles collided head-on. The report also indicated the Mack took evasive action but was unable to avoid striking the Volvo and Freightliner.
The Volvo and Freightliner caught fire and burned as a result of the collision, which caused first responders to have to shut down the highway completely.
The troopers reported the driver of the Volvo was James Crabtree, 33, of San Antonio and the driver of the Freightliner was Ronald Ross, 59, of Millsap. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene by Hamilton County JP. The driver of the Mack is Elmer Saling, 66, of Lawn, who was not injured.
Officials with Texas Highway Patrol said both men’s next of kin have been notified. They are also reporting the roadway has been closed since the crash occurred and is expected to reopen late this evening by 11 p.m.
DPS officials urge all drivers to avoid distracted, fatigue and impaired driving. These are among the top factors contributing to fatal crashes across our state.