Multiple fatal crashes on Westpark Tollway since April 2021 raise safety concerns

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Six people have died in wrong-way crashes on the Westpark Tollway since April 2021.

This is a concern for Houstonians who travel on the highway during times when crashes like these happen.

"For someone (Harris County Toll Road Authority) to put big, bright lights and signs saying, 'Wrong Way,' I feel like as a citizen, that would be adequate enough," said Eyad Achraf, who is a Houston DJ.

Achraf said he's not done with his events until, sometimes, two or three in the morning. He said he's aware these crashes happen and says it's good to be aware at all times.

"I mean, what else can you do besides put wrong-way signs in," said Achraf. "Are they going to pay an officer to patrol it all the times? I don't think it's going to happen. I feel like that's the only solution, is to have someone constantly patrol there."

Surveillance video from a nearby business obtained exclusively by ABC13 shows a wrong-way crash involving a private ambulance early Saturday morning.

The Harris County Constable's office said a wrong-way driver entered the Westpark Tollway and drove westbound in the eastbound lanes. One person in each vehicle died at the scene of the accident near Fondren, including paramedic Sarah Kaderli.

These deaths are just two of six people who died in three fatal crashes on the Westpark Tollway since April 2021.

Three people, including a 3-year-old died, in a fiery crash near FM 1464 in Fort Bend County in July 2021. Three months prior, 19-year-old Jaelyn Chapman was killed in a crash near Dunvale involving what authorities call a "heavily intoxicated driver." A tow truck driver ABC13 spoke to said he has responded to a number of wrong-way crashes in different parts of town.

"If you're drinking, you're not going to pay attention to that sign," said Achraf.

So, with six deaths since April, we want to know what the HCTRA is doing to make improvements to the Westpark Tollway. ABC13 reached out repeatedly Wednesday by phone and email to ask if more signs have been put up along the roadway, if they are they enabled and working, and what is being done to prevent crashes in the future.

Roxana Sibrian, the communications manager with the HCTRA, didn't answer our questions specifically.

She sent the following statement in an email:

"Safety is paramount to the Harris County Toll Road (HCTRA). In 2009, HCTRA implemented the "Wrong-Way Detection System" on the Westpark Tollway to enhance safety measures by identifying wrong-way drivers that enter the system. Our agency continues to focus on evolving the system to meet the County's needs for resilience and sustainability, including the evolution of other areas where safety enhancements may also incorporate this technology."

ABC13 also asked for an update on the fatal crash from Saturday morning.

"It is still under investigation. Once the investigation has concluded we'll be able to provide updates at that time," Sibrian said.
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