NewsWest 9 Special Report: Deadly Roads in the Basin - Part I

NewsWest 9 Special Report: Deadly Roads in the Basin - Part I

By Stephanie Mills

NewsWest 9

MIDLAND/ODESSA - With the boom in West Texas, our roadways are being pushed to the limit. Every day we hear about fatal accidents, NewsWest 9 sat down with the family and friends of one victim to hear about his story.

"We miss him every day. I hope that other families, mothers, dads, don't go through this heartbreak. It's awfully hard," Jan Kator, said.

Erik Kator was just 34-years-old when his life was taken in a tragic motorcycle accident on Highway 191. On the evening of October 25, 2013, Erik was driving his motorcycle in the left lane when a truck entered the highway at FM 1788. The driver of the truck didn't see Erik and merged two lanes over. Erik had to drive into the median to avoid getting hit, but in the process he crashed. He was wearing his helmet but was pronounced dead at the hospital.

His mother, Jan Kator, recalled that evening, "I prayed on the way to the hospital, on the way to the emergency room that he was still alive but of course it was already too late. We talked to the policeman and the police thought the guy really didn't do it on purpose. It was just an accident. Of course, my thought was he wasn't paying attention."

Erik's story is just one of many fatal crashes that have occurred on Highway 191/42nd Street. In Ector and Midland counties combined, there have been 18 fatalities in the past five years but 51 incapacitating crashes. That's not even the worst of it. In the intersection of 42nd & JBS Parkway alone, Odessa Police Department has responded to 91 major crashes in just 2013. That's not including all the other wrecks that have happened there.

Steve LeSueur, with the Odessa Police Department, said, "The bottom line is last year, OPD responded to over 6,000 crashes within the city limits. That's an average of over 17 crashes per day."

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, the road with the most fatalities in Ector County from 2009 to 2013 was actually U.S. Highway 385 with 25 deadly accidents. In Midland County, for that same time period, the number is higher, at 28 deaths on Interstate 20. That is not including the fatal accidents that have already occurred on the road in 2014.

Aaron Smith, with Midland Police Department's Traffic Division, says, "Studies show most wrecks can be avoided if the person had altered their movement by one half of a second."

Tim Jebsen, the Executive Director at Midland Community Theatre and a friend of Erik's, says, "Any life that is lost is a life that you wish you could go back in time and correct that and we know as human beings we can't do that. But I'd liked to think we can learn from each of these passing's and find something that we can do to move forward as a community to benefit from that. His passing does not effect every individual. His passing does not affect every viewer but hopefully his passing might cause somebody to do something a bit different to have an impact in someone else's life."

But what is causing these wrecks? And what is really being done to change these statistics? Find out in Part 2 of this special report on Wednesday night on NewsWest 9 at 10 p.m.