By Jen Kastner
MARTIN COUNTY- The eastbound and westbound lanes of I-20 near mile marker 152 have re-opened after the Interstate was shut down for several hours following a set of major pileups.
Authorities tell NewsWest 9, 15 vehicles were involved in the accidents, including an 18-wheeler carrying methane that rolled over, spilling the chemical.
The wrecks happened just west of Stanton. Martin County Sheriff John Woodward says this is the worst set of pileups he's responded to in years.
Truck driver James Ward says he missed the accident by just minutes because he took a quick rest stop.
"I can thank God above because we were only at the stop for like five minutes and if we hadn't stopped, we could have been right in the middle of this," he says.
On Monday at approximately 2:30 p.m., reports came in of an accident on a stretch of the Interstate near mile marker 152. That accident involved five cars and two 18-wheelers. During that collision, an SUV was dragged nearly a half mile down the westbound lanes of the Interstate. A woman inside that SUV was airlifted to Medical Center Hospital and then to Lubbock. We're told she is in very critical condition.
When authorities arrived on scene, they witnessed a second accident. Martin County
Sheriff John Woodward says, "As we were trying to assess the first accident and set up a landing zone for the helicopter for the injured person, we had a secondary collision just feet away from us."
Authorities say the second accident involved seven cars and one 18-wheeler which was carrying methane. Methane is a flammable chemical. The 18-wheeler rolled over, spilling the methane. Hazmat crews were called out to clean up the spill.
"The entire scene from end to end was over a mile long," Woodward said.
Four other individuals were transported by ground to area hospitals. Their conditions are still unknown.
Traffic was diverted to the service roads while clean-up efforts were underway. A third wreck occurred on the north service road by the area of the previous wrecks. We're told the diverted cars created so much traffic that a vehicle slammed into the back of an 18-wheeler. A woman inside that vehicle was airlifted to Medical Center Hospital in very critical condition.
The interstate re-opened at approximately 10:45 p.m.
The Department of Public Safety is investigating the wrecks.
"I've driven trucks for 23 years and I've see a lot," Ward said.
However, he says these pileups were some of the worst he's ever seen.