Fort Worth

Deadly week on Tarrant County roads leaves nine dead

North Richland Hills police create eerie 'Silent Night' video

The mannequin challenge video warns holiday drivers of the dangers of driving while intoxicated.
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The mannequin challenge video warns holiday drivers of the dangers of driving while intoxicated.

A week of deadly crashes that took nine lives in Tarrant County this month marked the most fatalities in such a short period since August, data provided by the state shows.

The nine traffic fatalities occurred in eight wrecks from Dec. 6-13, tying the week of Aug. 14-21, according to the Texas Department of Transportation data.

“Typically, we do see a spike in accidents around the holidays,” TxDOT spokesman Val Lopez said.

The first crash was Dec. 6, when a tractor-trailer northbound on Interstate 35W in Fort Worth hit a cement barrier and was knocked into oncoming traffic. An SUV then struck the barrier “and flew off the freeway,” rolling into an embankment below the highway and killing the driver, police said.

The victim was identified as Stephen Dean, 46, of Fort Worth, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.

Two days later, on Dec. 8, two people died after a crash on McCart Avenue in Fort Worth in which speed played a primary part, police said.

The victims were identified by the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office as Maurice McDonald, 31, of Fort Worth and James Canuteson, 55, of Fort Worth.

The holidays can be stressful, pushing drivers to speed and sometimes bringing out the worst in drivers.

“The No. 1 thing is to be patient,” said Lonny Haschel, Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman. “Be courteous to other drivers.”

Holiday partying may also play a role this time of year.

Friday night, Kelle Moody, 52, of Fort Worth, was ejected from the passenger seat of her pickup after another woman driving a Hyundai hit Moody’s pickup from behind in the 1600 block of east Loop 820.

Ashley Danielle Siebert, 30, the driver of the Hyundai, tried to flee the scene but was quickly caught by police. She was arrested and faces a charge of intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle, according to jail records.

“This is why [the accidents] are so tragic, because a lot of them are preventable,” Lopez said. “If you drink, plan ahead to get a designated driver.”

The dangers of getting on the road after having a few drinks is the subject of a haunting video produced by the North Richland Hills Police Department. The mannequin challenge video shows firefighters and police working a two-vehicle wreck, carrying away the injured and questioning a young man to the strains of Silent Night played in a minor key.

“Some challenges aren’t worth it,” the beginning says, adding, “Don’t let this be your Silent Night.”

Eating and driving and distracted driving, in general, could get worse during the holidays, too.

“Limit distractions while you’re driving, whether that’s food, your coffee, in-car navigation, your smartphone, people or anything else,” Haschel said. “We want everybody to have a safe holiday, that’s what it’s all about.”

Victims of other crashes that added to the week’s total include:

  • An 18-year-old motorcyclist who died Saturday after hitting a curb and crashing on Mid Cities Boulevard in Euless. He was identified as Jaden Sims of Richland Hills, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.
  • A 24-year-old who was killed after being ejected from his Jeep that had collided with a GMC Sierra on Saturday on Davis Boulevard in North Richland Hills. The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the victim as Dakota Torrey of Euless.
  • A Fort Worth man who died in a single-vehicle accident at the 5600 block of east Loop 820 Monday night. He was identified as Reynard Moore, 25, by the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.
  • James Esslinger, 52, of North Richland Hills, who was pronounced dead at 10:38 a.m. on Tuesday after a motorcycle crash, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner’s office.
  • A passenger in a fiery three-vehicle crash that left one person dead Tuesday night when a Chevrolet Cruze pulling into the northbound lane of Boulevard 26 in North Richland Hills crossed southbound traffic and was hit by a northbound pickup truck. The Cruze was knocked to the side of the road and immediately caught fire. The driver of the Cruze and the passenger in the front seat made it out out of the car, but the passenger in the back was pronounced dead at the scene. The victim had not been identified by Thursday afternoon.

For more than 16 years, Texas has had a traffic fatality every day of the year, a trend TxDOT would like to end. The campaign, #EndtheStreak, aims to bring awareness to the issue.

Raise awareness for the campaign by joining the conversation on social media using #EndtheStreak.

Azia Branson: 817-390-7547, @aziabranson