October 10, 2011

Twin brothers, woman die in Arlington crash

Police are investigating what caused a fatal collision early Monday.

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ARLINGTON -- Twin 21-year-old brothers and a 19-year-old woman were killed and two other young men were injured when the Honda Accord they were in was sliced in two after the car slammed into a tree early Monday morning.

The driver and a front-seat passenger, identified as Stephen and Michael Eckel, were pronounced dead at the scene.

A woman and two men, all back-seat passengers, were taken by ambulance to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, where the woman, Danielle Ruthstrom of Arlington, was also pronounced dead.

"It appears that speed and alcohol played a factor in this deadly crash," said Tiara Ellis Richard, Arlington police spokeswoman. "A bottle of alcohol was recovered at the scene."

An Arlington officer on patrol in the 700 block of Southeast Green Oaks Boulevard drove up on the crash about 3 a.m. after spotting a flash of light.

A preliminary investigation indicates that the Honda had been traveling west on Green Oaks when the driver lost control and the car struck the tree in front of Ferguson Junior High School.

The twins, who celebrated birthdays Aug. 29, were both at Phillip Eagan's house early Monday -- about three miles away from their residence on Brooklawn Drive -- and left about 2 a.m., Eagan said.

"When they left my house they seemed fine to drive," Eagan said. "They had brought some Buds, but no one drank any more than they could handle."

Stephen Eckel had just gotten a job at the International House of Pancakes near The Parks at Arlington mall, and Michael Eckel was hoping to start a job at the local Kroger grocery store soon, Eagan said. Both had attended Seguin High School in Arlington, friends said.

The twins took whatever money they made and gave it to their mother, Jessie Eckel, to help her run the household, Eagan said. The young men were just engaged in another normal night of "hanging out" before the fatal collision, said Miranda Smith, 19, of Arlington, a friend of the twins.

"No one deserves to be lost like that," Eagan said. "It's just unfair."

The Eckels' aunt, Jeanie Jones of Greenville, said her two nephews were artists. Stephen Eckel played the guitar, and Michael Eckel painted. "It's just so tough having them both ripped away from us like this," Jones said.

The deadly wreck brings the number of traffic fatalities in the city to 32 this year, police said. In 2010, there were 20 traffic fatalities reported in Arlington.

Deanna Boyd, 817-390-7655; Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752

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