WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The intersection of Old Iowa Park Road and Sheppard Access Road has become one of the most dangerous in Wichita Falls, with four fatal crashes within the last five years alone.
The rate of serious accidents at this intersection has been concerning for the city’s residents over the years. John Burrus, the Director of Transportation with the City of Wichita Falls, shares in those concerns.
“We’ve had several serious accidents over there over the years and in addition, we’ve had some fatalities,” Burrus said. “That’s what concerns me most about Sheppard Access and Iowa Park because there has been a history not only at that intersection but other places on Sheppard Access as well.”
Burrus said the city has already spent over $160,000 trying to make the intersection safer.
“We’ve installed streetlights or illumination on that stretch of roadway,” Burrus said. “We then came back several years after that and we put the flashing red beacons up on top of the stop signs.”
That’s not all the city has done. They also made improvements after multiple vehicles were discovered to have run into businesses at the intersection.
“We put the concrete barriers up across the street just to keep people from driving through those buildings,” Burrus said. “I think at one time we even tried some rumble strips as well to see if we could get people to slow down.”
But even with those improvements, fatal crashes are still happening. Burrus said one of the reasons for the constant collisions is the sheer length of Sheppard Access Road.
“A lot of it I think has to do with the fact that Sheppard Access is such a long road,” Burrus said. “People have a tendency to build up their speed as they’re traveling southbound and unfortunately when they get to the intersection they’re not able to stop the car.”
According to Burrus, the true cause of the collision that ejected two early in the morning on December 23, 2022, and eventually claimed the life of 25-year-old Wichita Falls man Toby Hasten is still under investigation.
“We’ve got to see what extenuating factors were at play at that time as well,” Burrus said. “We don’t want to jump to conclusions, we’re still waiting on getting information from WFPD”
Detectives with the Wichita Falls Police Department suspect alcohol may have played a factor in the crash, though that has yet to be confirmed by authorities.
“If that’s the case, and I’m not saying it is the case, but if that’s the case, it really kind of limits what we can even do to have prevented this accident,” Burrus said.
The transportation department won’t know which way to go until police have concluded their investigation into this crash.
“Once we get that information, then we can kind of start working with it and see what we can do to make further improvements,” Burrus said. “We’ll work with our peers at TxDOT and see what we can do.”
This is just the latest crash in what has become the most fatal for the roads in Wichita Falls.
It’s something Burrus says is a first in his career with the city.
“This has been a crazy year,” Burrus said. “We’ve had what, 20, 21 fatalities this year. And in my 30-plus years with the city, I’ve never seen anything, anything like this.”
According to Burrus, a common thread appears to exist between all of the fatality crashes that occurred in 2022.
“One of the big things we see when we go back and review these accidents, driver inattention is number one. Speed usually plays a factor in it as well,” Burrus said. “Every review that we have made show that it was driver error in some form or fashion.”
Burrus is hopeful that in the new year, Wichita Falls can leave this trend of traffic fatalities in the dust.
“I’m hoping with 2023 coming up, we can get people to slow down a little bit, get off their cell phones and be conscious of their surroundings,” Burrus said.
But safer driving is the only way to ensure that actually happens.
“The big thing again, we’ve gotta push this, slow down, and pay attention to what you’re doing behind, behind the wheel,” Burrus said.
The WPFD Crash Unit is still searching for a female who was seen exiting the vehicle but departed from the scene prior to the officer’s arrival.
Police are asking anyone that has information about this investigation to call the WFPD Crime Stoppers at 940-322-9888 or the WFPD non-emergency number at 940-720-5000.
This is a developing story. Stick with Texoma’s Homepage for updates as more information becomes available.