By LIBBY CLUETT
PALO PINTO COUNTY – Two major single motor-vehicle wrecks in Palo Pinto County – one Friday afternoon and the other Saturday afternoon – sent three individuals to a Fort Worth hospital by air ambulance.
Friday wreck near Palo Pinto
In Friday’s wreck, driver Jose Manuel Aguado-Villanueva, 35, and passenger Miguel Vatino, 32, both of Fort Worth, were injured after the 1999 Ford F-350 dually pick up they were traveling in had a front right tire blow-out, according to Texas Department of Public Safety Senior Trooper Gary Rozzell. He said they were heading eastbound, pulling a flatbed trailer with a “skid steer” – a type of earth-moving equipment.
After the blowout, he said the truck drifted to the right, into a 10- to 15-foot ravine.
The wreck, called in at 4:05 p.m., occurred about two-and-a-half miles west of Palo Pinto on U.S. Highway 180, where the speed limit was 70 mph, Rozzell said.
He added that the truck hit several trees, 6 inches to 7 inches in diameter, as is rolled down the ravine on the side of the highway.
“It uprooted one tree and busted limbs,” he said of the mesquite trees in its path that “severely damaged” the front of the vehicle and “almost doubled that pickup.”
Rozzell explained that trees were lying around and on top of the truck. While the driver was able to crawl out, he said the passenger was pinned in and the extrication “was like tunneling down into something to get into it” because of the trees.
Rozzell said one Mineral Wells Volunteer Fire Department Rescue crew member said the truck appeared to have “rolled up in a ball.”
Aguado-Villanueva, who was already out of the truck, told DPS troopers we was wearing his seatbelt, according to Rozzell, who added that Vatino was wearing a seatbelt, but said he was repositioned between the front and back of the cab.
“It took two-and-a-half hours to get the passenger out of the truck,” he noted.
“I’ve never seen one like this before,” the veteran trooper added.
He said it took five hours to clear the scene. In addition to DPS and MWVFD, crews from Mineral Wells Fire Department/EMS, Palo Pinto VFD and Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Department aided at the scene.
Rozzell said he thought both men were sent to JPS Hospital in Fort Worth and he believed both men are still alive. On Wednesday, the hospital spokesperson told the Index neither was listed as a patient.
Saturday afternoon rollover
At 4:50 p.m. Saturday, after a series of calls for emergency services, DPS, Palo Pinto deputies and Santo EMS were called to the Interstate 20 overpass, over U.S. Highway 281, where a 2005 Toyota pickup truck had overturned and was lying in the median on its side.
Rozzell said rain was a factor in this single-vehicle wreck of the westbound truck, owned and driven by Mac Roller, 50.
He explained that the truck hydroplaned and drifted to the right, glancing off the guardrail on the overpass. When the driver over-corrected, he said the truck rolled, landing on its left side.
Passenger John-Mark Roller was not wearing a seatbelt, was injured, according to Rozzell, and airlifted to JPS. Again, a JPS spokesperson had no record of Roller Wednesday, when the Index checked.
Rozzell said DPS had to shut down the westbound lane for about one-and-a-half hours and traffic was redirected to the service road.
In this portion of I-20, Rozzell said the speed is posted at 75 mph. He said with the rising speed limits – 80 mph in some areas of the state – “The number of wrecks aren’t going up that much but the severity is.”
“State statistics show that one out of every 30 Texans will die in their lifetime in a car crash,” he noted, adding that this is why drivers and passengers need to put on their seat belt, to be better prepared for a crash.”