JACKSONVILLE — Four people are dead and four others hospitalized after a head-on collision on U.S. Highway 79 at County Road 3209 around 2:30 p.m. Sunday.
According to Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Clint Stephens, one vehicle, the make and model of which has yet to be identified, was headed east toward Jacksonville when it collided with a late model, red Chevy Silverado pickup.
The car was carrying three members of the same family, headed home from a track meet in Round Rock. Another car full of family members was driving in front when the accident happened. The car burst into flames upon colliding with the truck and all three passengers died.
Five people were in the truck. One died upon impact. Two helicopters were called in to transport three of the injured to hospitals in Dallas for treatment. One was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. No conditions for the injured have been released.
Names of the victims have also not been released pending notification of kin, but officials said those in the car were ages 11, 12 and 34, and those in the truck were two adults, ages unknown, and three children ages 4, 7, and 14.
There were no witnesses to the accident, but nearby residents say the crash was so loud, it rattled the windows of their home.
The force of the collision threw the car’s engine 30 yards away from the rest of the wreckage.
Stephens said to his knowledge this is the first, quadruple fatality accident to occur in Cherokee County in recent memory, and only the second car this year to burn as the result of a collision. He described the scene as, “Pretty bad. One of the worst I’ve seen. It’s pretty bad.”
The accident closed U.S. Highway 79 for hours. Traffic was re-routed onto County Road 3210. Two other accidents happened shortly after the first occurred. One was a fender-bender on County Road 3210 in which one vehicle rear-ended another. There were no injuries in that accident.
The other, occurred in the eastbound lane at the intersection of County Road 3210 east and U.S. Highway 79. In that accident, a truck pulling a trailer was stopped on U.S. Highway 79 to turn left onto County Road 3210. Two other vehicles were stopped behind it when another vehicle came over the hill and crashed into the rear of the third vehicle. One person in each car suffered minor injuries. No names have been released from that accident.
Trooper Stephens said in regard to the fatality accident, that it is rare for a vehicle to catch fire and burn in a crash. That’s why the State Reconstruction Team from Tyler was called in to investigate. The team took measurements and photos of the accident scene, including skid marks, to try to determine a cause of the crash. From those measurements, they will be able to determine speed, and possibly how the two vehicles collided head-on.
Stephens said that stretch of U.S. Highway 79 is not a particularly bad or dangerous patch of road. Weather conditions at the time were dry and sunny.
Neches, Earle’s Chapel and Jacksonville Fire Departments responded to the crash. Six DPS troopers were also on the scene.