Posted on June 20, 2012 at 5:23 PM
AUSTIN -- Massive clean up efforts are over after a tragic accident on Interstate 35. An 18-wheeler hit and killed a pedestrian early Wednesday morning.
The semi truck flipped on its side in the accident and landed on top of the concrete median dividing the southbound and northbound lanes of I-35.
Austin police officers were forced to close all southbound lanes and sections of the northbound lanes from East 51st Street to the U.S. 290 flyover.
As crews cleared the debris, the sound of glass bottles clinking against the pavement grew. Workers had to lift the trailer off its side. The truck was filled with pallets of empty bottles, and the bottles spilled out when the side of the trailer split open in the crash.
The incident happened just before 2 a.m. Wednesday. Austin Police Sergeant Jeff Slater with the Vehicular Homicide Unit says the driver of the 18-wheeler swerved to avoid hitting a pedestrian who was walking across the highway. The driver couldn’t get out of the way in time. The truck hit the pedestrian and then flipped on its side. Sgt. Slater says the pedestrian died immediately. The driver suffered minor injuries. Paramedics took him to University Medical Center Brackenridge.
The traffic backup began to build along the highway as the hours passed, while detectives investigated and crews cleared the debris. It took approximately seven hours to clear the highway.
Some drivers took alternate routes around the backup. Hundreds more couldn’t avoid the mess and were stuck in traffic along the frontage roads. Nearby businesses felt the impact.
“It was going to take an enormous amount of time to get here so [taking an alternate route] was extremely helpful, but I know that my staff, we all had to be re-routed so that we could get the store open on time. Yeah, we were running a little late,” said manager of Texas Thrift Store Janet Murdock.
Sgt. Slater says officers are interviewing the driver of the 18-wheeler and other drivers who saw the crash and stopped to help. Investigators took measurements along the highway and are working to recreate the accident. No charges have been filed. Police have not released the names of either the driver or pedestrian.
APD says 19 pedestrians were killed in 2011 in the City of Austin; 19 have also died in the first six months of 2012. Highway Enforcement Commander Jason Dusterhoft said five of the deaths were pedestrians trying to cross the interstate. Dusterhoft also said a pedestrian has died every year near I-35 and 51st since 2006. He plans to work with the Texas Department of Transportation and the City of Austin to add safety improvements in the area.
"What we would like to do is have a barrier there where they can't cross, so there is not an option for it," Dusterhoft said.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call APD Vehicular Homicide Unit deetectives at (512) 974-8212. This is Austin’s 39th traffic fatality of 2012.