Two census workers dead after wreck northwest of Midland

4/30/10 Two census workers from the Lubbock area died Friday after being struck by a tanker truck when they failed to yield at a stop sign on the Texas 349 Reliever Route around northwest Midland.

Department of Public Safety troopers were first called to the scene of West Highway 158 and Texas 349 Reliever Route, known as "Tom and Nadine Craddick Highway" at 12:29 p.m. Friday.

A census worker driving a blue Dodge pickup east on the 349 Reliever Route neglected to stop at a stop sign at the intersection of West Highway 158. When the pickup entered the intersection it was immediately struck by a tanker truck that was traveling west on Highway 158, witnesses told DPS.

A woman sitting in the passenger's seat of the pickup was pronounced dead at the scene, troopers said. The driver of the truck was transported to Midland Memorial Hospital where he died as a result of his injuries shortly after arriving.

EMS crews spent about 30 minutes using the Jaws of Life to extract the male driver from the Dodge pickup before being able to transport him.

Troopers still were searching for family members Friday to alert of the incident and did not release the names or ages of the victims.

The driver of the tanker truck, a 57-year-old male whose name has not been released, also was transported to Midland Memorial Hospital, where he remained in care Friday, troopers said.

Both census workers are employed at the Midland U.S. Census Bureau office and are from the Lubbock area, where they were returning to at the time of the incident, manager of the Midland office Charles Spence said.

The two employees were to begin conducting follow-up visits in Lubbock today at homes where residents had failed to fill out their census form, Spence said.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to the families," Spence said. "This is a sad day for us all."

Midland County and Midland Fire Department officials also responded to the scene where diesel fuel had spilled from the Dodge pickup and dripped along the roadway into the ditch where the vehicles landed.

The Dodge truck was split into several pieces upon impact and was unrecognizable when officials arrived at the scene. Wheels were strewn to either side of the dirt-covered ditch, the cab of the truck had become dislodged from the body, and the bottom of the truck was cast to the far west side of the ditch.

The tanker truck had flipped on its side during the incident and the front cab area was crushed in.

Census workers arrived following the incident to collect documents the truck had been carrying. When the incident occurred, the two were being followed by a coworker who immediately alerted the Midland office what had happened, Spence said.

"We were really excited to go out and start work tomorrow," Spence said. "For us now, we're just devastated."

The 349 Reliever Route where the accident occurred opened in December of 2009.

Troopers said they've had multiple incidents in the area since December, with one in mid-April sending two individuals to the hospital.

A four-way stop was installed at Highway 158 and Farm-to-Market Road 1788 in November of 2009 in an effort to prevent fatalities after a high-volume of accidents were reported there.

An overpass is scheduled to be completed at Highway 158 and the 349 Reliever Route in the spring of 2011. Until then, vehicles traveling on Highway 158 past the intersection of the 349 Reliever Route are not required to stop. An overpass is scheduled to be completed.

The speed limit on both Highway 158 and the 349 Reliever Route, where the incident occurred, is 70 mph during the daytime.

Crews spent more than three hours at the scene Friday clearing debris from the ditch and pouring sand over areas where fuel had spilled.

Both highways were closed for several miles in either direction from around 12:30 p.m. until after 3 p.m. with traffic being re-routed from as far back as Holiday Hill Road in Midland and County Road 60 in Midland County.

Midland Reporter-Telegram. "Two census workers dead after wreck northwest of Midland." Midland Reporter-Telegram, April 30, 2010.