3 who tried to help motorist killed in south Tarrant crash

Posted Monday, Jun. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Tarrant County Sheriff’s investigators are continuing Monday to put together the pieces of a “horrific” accident late Saturday night that killed three Good Samaritans — a mother, her daughter and a local youth minister — who tried to help a stranded motorist on a Tarrant County road near Spinks Airport.

Investigators are working on two fronts – accident reconstruction and a possible criminal investigation – as they sort through the events leading up to the accident that killed four people and injured nine others.

Investigators believe a disabled vehicle was hit, causing a chain reaction of wrecks involving two trucks, an SUV and a car on Burleson-Retta Road in southern Tarrant County.

Alcohol may have been a factor in the wreck, said Tarrant County sheriff’s spokesman Terry Grisham. Investigators have interviewed “dozens” of witnesses at the scene and at area hospitals since the accident occurred.

“There is a ton of work to be done,” Grisham said Monday morning.

Authorities had not released the victims’ names, but Alsbury Baptist Church officials said Sunday that youth minister Brian Jennings, married and the father of three, was killed in the wreck.

“He was on his way back to the church after a graduation party for his son,” said longtime friend Tim Willliams. Jennings’ son had recently graduated from Burleson High School. “He stopped his truck because he saw that another vehicle was in a culvert. He was hit as he was trying to help someone.”

Nine other people, some apparently students from Keller Central High School, were riding in a red pickup and were injured in the wreck, according to social media websites. Two of them were reportedly in critical condition, according to a MedStar official.

“Some people may have been standing outside of the vehicle when it was first hit,” Grisham said.

For hours Sunday, Burleson-Retta Road was closed as authorities re-created the wreck to determine a cause. Fort Worth police assisted in the investigation. Debris from the wrecked vehicles covered the road Sunday morning. Shoes, a broken wheel and a chair cluttered the roadway.

“It's the most horrific wreck I have seen in years,” Grisham said.

The crash site

The wreck happened at about 11:45 p.m. Saturday in the 1500 block of Burleson-Retta Road, which is a narrow two-lane street with very little shoulder space and no street lights.

Homes are on the north side of the road, on the westbound lane side, and the wooded Southern Oaks Golf Club course is on the south side.

Deputies found four vehicles involved.

One vehicle, probably a white SUV, may have become disabled in the westbound lane, authorities said. A white pickup that was being driven by Jennings — with folding tables in the bed — ended up on the south side of the road with damage to its rear.

A red truck was upside down and demolished on the north side of the road. A white SUV was in a bar ditch on the north side, and a red Volkswagen was left in the eastbound lane.

“It appears a red Volkswagen was eastbound and got clipped from all the vehicles in the westbound lanes,” Grisham said.

Police found the driver of one of the vehicles wandering in the neighborhood about a quarter-mile from the wreck, Grisham said. That driver was taken to the hospital.

MedStar and the Everman and Crowley fire departments helped take patients to hospitals.

A sad Father’s Day

Susan Clarke, who lives in the area, said she was driving in the area minutes before the crash.

“There appeared to be something on the road in the westbound lanes, like trash cans or something,” Clarke said. “I remember seeing that a vehicle in the westbound lanes had stopped and had its flashers on.”

Thomas Ward, who lives near the wreck site, said he was about to go to sleep when he heard “what I thought was thunder.”

“I waited a bit and walked out to my front yard and saw a lot of people standing around. That’s when I realized what had happened,” Ward said.

It appeared that a woman and her daughter came out of one of the homes to help the motorist, said nearby residents who asked not to be identified.

Jennings, who was driving a white pickup, stopped to help, church members said.

Williams, Jennings’ friend, said Jennings was driving the truck loaded with the tables back to Alsbury Baptist. The tables had been used at the graduation party.

“He had two boys with him, but he told them to stay inside the truck,” Williams said.

Williams said another friend of Jennings had been driving behind the youth minister.

The friend “was just a few minutes behind and drove up to the scene,” Williams said. “He found Brian and couldn’t do anything for him. He checked on the boys and they were OK. Brian’s son and wife later drove up and they had to be stopped from going on the scene.”

Pastor Scott Sharman of Alsbury Baptist said members in each of the three Sunday morning services were told of Jennings’ death.

“Brian stopping to help someone was typical of him,” Sharman said. The pastor described Jennings as a beloved youth minister who had grown up in Burleson. “You don’t expect Father’s Day to be like this.”

Still cleaning up

On Sunday morning, almost seven hours after the wreck, representatives from the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office were still removing victims from the scene.

The body of one of the female victims had apparently been catapulted over a 4- to 5-foot-tall fence alongside the crash site.

Authorities did not identify anyone who may have been in the red truck, but social media websites indicated that several of them were students from Keller Central High School. According to Facebook and Twitter accounts, at least two Central students were in grave condition Sunday afternoon.

Shellie Johnson, a spokeswoman for the Keller school district, said Sunday that she was monitoring social media but had not been able to confirm that the students in the truck were from Central High. She did say, however, that it appeared that some Central students had been involved.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and those who were injured.,” Johnson said Sunday. “We are hopeful that those hospitalized and fighting for their lives experience an immediate and full recovery."

Staff writer Sandra Engelland contributed to this report.

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763 Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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1500 block of a Burleson-Retta Road, Fort Worth, TX
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