One person is dead and another was severely injured Thursday morning after two separate wrecks involving tractor-trailers along U.S. Highway 380 in west Denton.
The Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office identified the deceased driver as Beverly Chambers, 75, of Denton. Denton police, as well as the Denton Fire Department, were called to the scene of the fatality at the intersection of U.S. 380 (University Drive) and Marshall Road at 7:50 a.m.
According to Denton police spokesman Shane Kizer, the woman was heading south on Marshall Road when she tried to cross U.S. 380 without yielding to a tractor-trailer. The 18-wheeler collided with her Ford SUV on the driver’s side, and she was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have not yet determined who was at fault, Kizer said.
The intersection of Marshall Road and U.S. 380 is near Selwyn College Preparatory School, where the speed zone of 35 mph is active from 7:45 to 8:45 a.m. daily when school is in session, according to Selwyn secretary Gail Summers. When the school zone is not active, the nearest posted speed limit for that portion of the highway is 45 mph.
However, Summers said cars rarely obey the speed zone and commonly travel up to 60 mph.
“It’s scary, and it has been scary for years,” Summers said.
Kizer said Thursday afternoon he did not know how fast the semi was traveling.
The Texas Department of Transportation has for months been working to widen the portion of U.S. 380 that runs from FM156 to Interstate 35. The agency had recently announced it was to move traffic Tuesday onto the westbound lanes, where both accidents occurred. But Denton resident Melissa Vardas, who lives off Marshall Road and regularly drives on U.S. 380, said the westbound lanes remained closed until Thursday morning.
TxDOT spokeswoman Michelle Releford said the agency had to keep the westbound lanes closed to traffic on Tuesday and Wednesday because workers had to finish additional steps in the construction process, such as striping. The westbound lanes did open early Thursday morning before the accidents occurred, she said.
“Initial indications are that all necessary measures were in place, including a changeable message sign notifying motorists of the traffic switch, new stop bar pavement markings and new stop signs with orange flags,” Releford said in an email. “Workers were also present at cross streets assisting traffic flow this morning when the crashes occurred.”
Releford said workers were taking extra steps Thursday to set up additional message boards at most cross streets.
Denton police had been called to the scene of another accident 14 minutes earlier at the intersection of U.S. 380 and Thomas J. Egan Road. A man driving an extended-cab pickup collided with a tractor-trailer traveling westbound on the highway. Similar to the fatality, the man was heading south on Thomas J. Egan Road and tried to cross the highway, Kizer said.
He said the driver of the pickup was ejected and authorities found him unconscious on the ground. He was airlifted to a hospital in Grapevine with severe injuries and remained in critical condition Thursday afternoon, said Kizer, adding he did not know the man’s identity.
The posted speed limit near that intersection is 60 mph, but it is still unclear how fast the 18-wheeler was traveling.
Police also have not determined if distracted driving played a role in either accident. Both accidents are still under investigation.
JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6882 and via Twitter at @juliangillmusic.