Danie M. Huffman
Officials are not sure why a Springtown man veered to the wrong side of the road early Friday, winding up in a fatal accident.
Jose Perez, who just turned 38 last week, died in a head-on crash with a tanker truck.
Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Don DeLukie said both lanes of Highway 51 North were shut down for more than two hours Friday, while emergency personnel remained on scene for almost five hours before the debris was cleared.
Authorities said around 2 a.m., two men were asleep while parked on the wrong side of the road in their 1995 Mazda LX with their high beams on.
A Nabors Well Services Ltd. Safety Team member said the driver of one of their tanker trucks, carrying a full load of salt water, was heading south on 51 North as he topped the hill near Carter Road and was blinded by the high beam lights of the parked Mazda.
As far as the accident goes, the preliminary report indicates Perez was headed north and the Nabor’s truck was southbound. Perez apparently crossed into the southbound lanes, hitting the tanker head-on.
Officials said at this time, no one knows why Perez, a concrete/cement worker, crashed head-on into the tanker after veering into his lane.
Perez, driving a 1998 Ford Taurus, was pronounced dead on the scene by a Tarrant County Medical Examiner.
DeLukie said he intends on talking with Perez’ family to see if he was tired, on his way to or from work, and what circumstances surrounded the crash.
“Right now, I do know he lived alone and recently moved to the area,” DeLukie said.
The Nabors truck left gouge marks in the road, continued south into the northbound lanes, entered the barrow ditch, crashed through a fence and came to rest more than 100 feet from the point of impact.
DeLukie said the evidence at the scene showed the tanker driver, Stephen Mezo, 45, of Fort Worth, “was rightfully in his lane at the point of impact.”
Mezo told DeLukie as he topped the hill before Carter Road, he could see the Mazda, but did not know if they were attempting a U-turn or trying to turn into a driveway, so he slowed down.
Highway Patrol Trooper Gary L. Rozzell took the men in the Mazda to jail on suspicion of being under the influence of alcohol.
The Mazda driver, Ryan Ress Jones, 24, of Galveston, tested under the legal limit and was not arrested.
The passenger however, Daniel Earl Gregory, 24, of Springtown, was “obviously intoxicated,” according to Rozzell and was booked into the Parker County Jail. Officials said the pair had been out celebrating Gregory’s upcoming birthday.
“They pulled over on the shoulder to sleep,” Rozzell said.
Although the pair did not give authorities a reason for being on the wrong side of the road, Rozzell said the intoxicated passenger was navigating for the out-of-towner.
Rozzell added Jones was lost, thinking he was on Loop 820 in Fort Worth, more than 30 minutes away.
Gregory was charged with public intoxication. As of press time, Gregory remained jailed. His bail had not been set as of Friday afternoon.
“At this point in the investigation, the Mazda was not involved in the crash, but we are looking to see if they were a contributing factor,” DeLukie said.
More charges could be forthcoming.
“We’re not ruling out negligent homicide,” Rozzell said, according to preliminary reports. “The DA will have to decide that.”
Trooper DeLukie said no citations, if any, will be issued in the fatal crash until the investigation is complete.
When asked if speed was a factor in the accident, DeLukie said, “I don’t believe it was.”
Danie M. Huffman
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