Aug. 31 has been a deadly day for some Southeast Texas motorists and very frustrating for many others.
Motorists headed to their destinations were forced to find alternate routes Friday morning after a fatal crash at the base of the Purple Heart Memorial Bridge in Beaumont shut down Interstate 10 in both directions.
According to a Beaumont Police Department release, the driver of a GMC pickup truck heading eastbound in the westbound lane of I-10 collided head on with an 18-wheeler at 2:14 a.m.
The Acadian Ambulance Service transported the driver of the 18-wheeler to St. Elizabeth Hospital for treatment of minor injuries. The driver of the pickup, identified by Department of Public Safety officials as Billy Wayne Hight, 22, of Vidor, died at the scene. He was pronounced dead by Justice of the Peace Nancy Beaulieu, officials said.
Both westbound and eastbound lanes of I-10 at the Neches River were shut down until late morning. Vidor Police and Orange County deputies diverted westbound I-10 traffic at Highway 105 in Vidor. Westbound I-10 was completely shut down for several hours due to a diesel fuel leak from the 18-wheeler. All eastbound traffic on I-10 was diverted off at MLK Parkway in Beaumont to head south toward Port Arthur.
Both lanes reopened briefly before another fatal collision occurred in Vidor near the South Dewitt exit, again shutting down the I-10 westbound lanes. The crash involved six vehicles, five of which were stopped in traffic due to the morning’s previous fatal accident. A sixth motorist was unaware of the stopped traffic and struck one of the vehicles from behind, causing a chain-reaction collision. A driver of a 2009 Chevrolet pickup truck was traveling at an unsafe speed and struck a 2001 Mercury Grand Marquis in the rear. The accident happened around 11 a.m., according to Beaumont DPS Trooper Stephanie Davis.
Trooper Davis said there was one fatality in the second accident, 43-year-old Thor Schmidt of Suplhur, La.
In addition, around 1 p.m., there was a multiple vehicle crash in the northbound lanes of US 69 in Hardin County on the Pine Island Bridge. The crash involved 16 vehicles, including a 18-wheeler. According to DPS, the chain reaction began when a vehicle traveling northbound hydroplaned and struck the concrete divider. During the crash, a white Chevrolet truck rear-ended a black Chervrolet truck, causing the two vehicles to become engulfed in flames.
This multiple vehicle crash sent many victims to the hospital with injuries ranging from minor scrapes to burns and broken bones. All those injured in the crash were taken to St. Elizabeth in Beaumont.