Arlington man dies in fiery collision on Interstate 30

By BRUCE ALSOBROOK, News-Telegram Managing Editor

June 5, 2008 - An Arlington man burned to death early this morning after the 18-wheeler he was in slammed into an overturned tractor-trailer on Interstate 30 and burst into flames.

Aaron Lee Walker, 43, of Arlington was pronounced dead at the scene just west of Brashear by Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Yvonne King at about 1:45 a.m. Walker was able to crawl from the sleeper of the truck but died shortly after the collision.

The driver of the burned 18-wheeler sustained serious injuries but was able to escape with his life. He was taken by medical helicopter to a Tyler hospital. The driver of the other truck was pinned for an extensive time, leading to what one firefighter called "one of the toughest extrications I've ever been on." The truck driver was later taken to Hopkins County Memorial Hospital. The conditions of the drivers were not known at press time.

The crash left burned debris scattered across the northern half of Interstate 30, including piles of frozen chicken parts being transported by one of the trucks.

The westbound side of the interstate was essentially shut down from the time of the crash, reported at 1:15 a.m., until about 11:30 a.m. this morning. Traffic was backed up for some six miles at times, enough to prompt Dallas-area radio stations to include the shutdown on regular traffic reports during the morning.

Texas Department of Public Safety troopers are investigating the fatal crash, which occurred about one mile west of the Brashear overpass (FM 2653).

Emergency officials said that the poultry truck, for whatever reason, ran off the road and slammed into a concrete barrier in the median before flipping over onto its side.

A car headed west on I-30 was able to avoid the overturned truck and trailer, skidding into the guardrail and ending up in a ditch.

But the second truck, unable to see the unlit rig lying in the highway, crashed through the trailer, sending frozen chicken parts flying in all directions.

"When that truck hit the trailer, it (the second 18-wheeler) caught on fire," said Brian Fairchild with Hopkins County Fire Department, one of many firemen called to the scene for several hours.

Cumby Volunteer Fire Department was the first to arrive and immediately began calling for more help from other departments, including Brinker and Arbala VFDs, as well as Hopkins County.

The driver of the second truck was able to crawl out of the wreckage, but only after sustaining burn injuries.

"The driver escaped, but he had to be Careflighted," said Justice of the Peace Yvonne King. "HIs legs were severely burned."

Emergency medical crews from Greenville summoned a helicopter to take him to a hospital in Tyler.

Meanwhile, the collision left the cab of the poultry truck a mangled mess, trapping the driver, and El Paso man, inside.

Fairchild was one of several firefighters who worked long and hard to rescue the man from the truck.

"We had a prolonged extrication due to to the condition of the truck," Fairchild said this morning.

The cab was so mangled rescuers had to use two "jaws of life" tools to remove the man, whose legs were pinned.

"We used Cumby's tools and Hopkins County's tools," Fairchild said. "It was one of the toughest extrications I'd ever been on due to the damage and the truck being upside down. It was mangeld, crushed in, everything -- heavy, heavy damage."

Firemen were at the scene until about 5 a.m. this morning. State troopers and others remained behind investigating the wreckage and cleaning up debris until about 11:30 a.m., when the road was finally cleared and opened to traffic.

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