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Section A: General News


Troopers struggle to keep up with crashes


Troopers struggle to keep up with crashes
First responders prepare to extricate a Floresville man from his wrecked vehicle Dec. 11 at the intersection of U.S. 181 and U.S. 181 Business north of Floresville.


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Wilson County News
December 19, 2012
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FLORESVILLE -- December continues to be a busy month for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Highway Patrol, as Wilson County’s roadways continue to experience a surge in major traffic accidents.

On Dec. 10 at 4:02 p.m., a four-vehicle, chain-reaction crash on U.S. 181 at the intersection of F.M. 775 north of Floresville led to rush-hour headaches for scores of area motorists. DPS Trooper Corey Holmes said he was about to turn from northbound U.S. 181 onto northbound F.M. 775 when the incident occurred. He and fellow Trooper Al Alejos -- who was at the Valero gas station and E-Z Stop Convenience Store nearby -- responded.

According to the troopers’ preliminary investigation, witnesses reported that a Hyundai Sonata driven by 61-year-old Frank Walsh of Floresville was weaving in and out of traffic, before it struck the rear of a 2010 Ford F-150 pickup truck being driven by 65-year-old Don Houston Holmes of Floresville, which was in the right lane. Holmes’ vehicle struck the rear of a 2011 Nissan Versa driven by 57-year-old Suzanne Marie Burke of Floresville. Burke’s vehicle then struck the rear of a trailer being towed by a Ford F-250 pickup truck being driven by 45-year-old Elias Kotzur of Karnes City. Alejos said the impact of the crash bent the Ford F-250’s hitch receiver, causing the trailer to strike the rear of the truck.

Walsh, who Holmes said was not wearing a seat belt, suffered facial injuries. He and his passengers -- 53-year-old Rae Beth Rauch and 28-year-old Aaron Schraub, both of Floresville -- along with Burke, and Elias Kotzur’s passenger, David Kotzur, 28, were transported via ambulance to the Connally Memorial Medical Center in Floresville.

Earlier that day, a three-vehicle crash at the intersection of F.M. 541 and F.M. 1344 in Dewees forced a family to find another place to live after a truck towing a cattle trailer plowed through their house. (See related article, page 11A.)

Then on Dec. 11, a Floresville man was flown via AirLife helicopter to University Hospital in San Antonio, where he remains listed in stable condition, according to hospital spokesman Sylvia Garcia. This is after he sustained injuries in a wreck at approximately 6:15 p.m. at the intersection of U.S. 181 and U.S. 181 Business north of Floresville.

DPS Trooper Anthony Flores said that 25-year-old Brandon Fowler of Floresville was driving southbound on U.S. 181 near the intersection of U.S. 181 Business north of Floresville in a 2007 Pontiac G-6 coupe. A Dodge Ram 3500 pickup truck being driven by 35-year-old Leslie Urbina of San Antonio, which was towing a flatbed trailer hauling construction equipment, was crossing the southbound lanes of the highway from U.S. 181 Business, when Fowler’s vehicle struck the left rear of the trailer.

Flores said there was no evidence of operable lighting on the trailer. Evidence reveals that Fowler did attempt to take evasive action prior to the impact. Charges against Urbina are pending.

Urbina and his two passengers, ages 6 and 4, were not injured. A small dog riding in Fowler’s vehicle died as a result of injuries sustained in the crash.

Dec. 14 was a busy morning for troopers, who responded to two wrecks in the same location on S.H. 97 east of Floresville. Alejos said the first occurred when a 1999 Dodge Ram pickup truck driven by 73-year-old Louise Melva West of Stockdale was traveling west on S.H. 97 near C.R. 305. The trooper said West claimed that she was looking at the surrounding pastures when her vehicle drifted toward the shoulder. Alejos said West overcorrected, crossed the highway, overcorrected again, and rolled the truck three times.

West, who was wearing her seat belt at the time, was transported by the Wilson County Emergency Medical Services to the Connally Memorial Medical Center after she was extricated from the truck by members of the Floresville Volunteer Fire Department.

While troopers were finishing their preliminary investigation of this crash, a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban being driven by 41-year-old Melissa Laffey of Stockdale struck the rear of a 2002 Ford F-150 pickup truck being driven by 67-year-old Lonn Van Horn of La Vernia. Alejos said Laffey reported that she had looked away from the road to check the condition of a sick child she was transporting to a doctor. No one, including Laffey’s juvenile passenger and Van Horn’s passenger -- his 67-year-old wife, Dorothy -- was injured in this crash.

DPS Cpl. Javier Reyes confirmed that troopers have seen an increase in crashes in Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties.

“Normally, in years past, we’d see 500 to 600 crashes per year,” he said. “I’m almost certain that we’re well over a thousand.”

Even worse, Reyes said that at least 24 of these crashes have been fatal. Usually, he said, troopers in the three counties respond to five to six fatal crashes per year.

The Wilson County News wants your opinion. What do you think is Wilson County’s most dangerous highway intersection? Log onto our Facebook page at http://on.fb.me/YcHrd1 and let us know. The poll results will be included in a future story.

 

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