An early morning five-vehicle crash claimed the life of an 18-year-old near Conroe on Thursday.
Just after 5 a.m., Conroe Police and Fire responded to a multi-vehicle crash with an overturned 18-wheeler on I-45 southbound, just south of the FM 830 overpass, and north of the League Line exit.
Conroe Police Sgt. Robert Engel said a Kenworth 18-wheeler, owned by Reveille Trucking of Harlingen, was southbound in the center lane when it was struck in the rear by a green 1993 Honda Civic, driven by 18-year-old Joseph Valderas. Witness statements and on-scene investigation indicated Valderas was driving on the divider between lanes before striking the 18-wheeler.
Both vehicles stopped in that lane. At that point, 44-year-old Latonya Willrich, who was driving a silver 2012 Honda Accord, saw the crash on the dark roadway ahead of her and tried swerving to the left to avoid it. The front right side of Willrich’s silver Accord then struck the rear left side of Valderas’ green Civic, which caused Willrich’s Accord to continue off of the road crashing into the concrete barrier before stopping on the inside shoulder. The impact caused Valderas’ green Civic to spin and roll, coming to a stop near the lane divider and facing oncoming traffic.
Gilberto Leal, 55, who was driving a loaded auto transport vehicle, owned by Accelerated Auto Transport, then saw the crash ahead of him and tried to veer to the right. Leal was almost successful, but the trailer of the auto hauler lightly impacted the right side of Valderas’ vehicle.
A Federal Express Kenworth with two box trailers, driven by 41-year-old Juan Chavez, was not far behind the auto transport vehicle. The Fed-Ex driver was unable to avoid the crash, and the left front of truck slammed into the right side of Valderas’ green Honda Civic, crushing it as it slammed into the concrete barrier wall. Chavez then lost control and the Fed-Ex truck and trailers rolled onto its left side as it spun toward the ditch between the main lanes and the feeder road.
Joseph Matthew Jimenez Valderas, of Garland, the driver of the green Honda Civic, was deceased on the scene.
Montgomery County Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Wayne Mack responded to the crash and conducted an inquest. Judge Mack ordered Eickenhorst Funeral Directors to transport the victim to the Montgomery County Forensic Center for autopsy.
Juan Chavez, the driver of the Federal Express truck. Chavez was transported to Memorial Hermann in The Woodlands with only minor injuries. He was released a short time later.
Latonya Willrich, the driver of the silver Honda Accord, sustained minor cuts to her left arm and her right knee was swollen, but she refused transport by EMS.
Interstate 45 remained closed until after 10 a.m. as Conroe Police with the assistance of Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Andrew James investigated the crash.
Milstead Heavy Duty Wrecker Service was able to right the Federal Express truck without spilling the load.
Accidents and detours always slot traffic, but the horrific scene created an additional issue for drivers attempting to pass through the area. Traffic that was being forced off of I-45 at FM 830 moved at a snail’s pace, as many drivers slowed to photograph the scene with their cell phones.
THEN YOU HAVE FOLKS SLOWING TRAFFIC DOWN FOR CAMERA PHONE PICTURES