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3 die in multi-vehicle accident on Highway 54


Posted by: tdt -

3 die in multi-vehicle accident on Highway 54

By Bill Kelly
The Dalhart Texan

A chain reaction of collisions about six miles southwest of Dalhart on U.S. Highway 54 that involved a total of six vehicles resulted in the deaths of three people and minor injuries to four others.

According to a report from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), the collisions occurred at approximately 11:30 a.m., and the weather was clear and road was dry. The posted speed limit was 65 miles per hour, but traffic was at a standstill due to road construction on southbound Highway 54.

A 2023 Freightliner truck tractor semi-trailer was southbound and didn’t slow down or stop for the stationary traffic ahead. The Freightliner struck the rear of a 2020 International truck tractor semi-trailer. The International then rearended a 2018 Ford F-150, causing it to rear-end a the fourth vehicle, a 2019 Peterbilt truck tractor semitrailer. The 2019 Peterbilt in turn rear-ended a 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which caused the Grand Cherokee to rear-end a 2023 Mack truck tractor semi-trailer. The chain reaction ended with the Mack.

The first vehicle, the 2023 Freightliner, was driven by Donald Diebel Jr. of El Paso, who was 57-years-old. He was pronounced deceased at the scene by Hartley County Justice of the Peace Beth Moore. It is unknown if he was wearing his seat belt due to the damage of the vehicle.

The 2020 International was driven by Rasheed Wall of Carter Lake, Iowa, who is 27-years-old. Akeem Hopkins, age 29, who is also from Carter Lake, was a passenger in the International. Both were transported by ambulance to Coon Memorial Hospital with minor injuries. Both were wearing their seat belts when the collision happened.

The driver of the Ford F-150 was Marvin Wirtjes of Morris, Minnesota, who was 81-years-old. Shirley Wirtjes, who was 79-years-old and also from Morris, was a passenger in in the F-150. Both were pronounced deceased at the scene by Justice of the Peace Moore, and both were wearing their seat belt during the accident.

The driver of the fourth vehicle, the 2019 Peterbilt, was Joaquin Murrieta of Wilcox, Arizona, who is 49-years old. Murrieta was wearing his seat belt, and was uninjured in the accident. The driver of the other truck tractor semitrailer, the 2023 Mack which was the sixth and final vehicle in the accident, was Charles Dickens of Dickens, Tennessee, who is 63-years-old. He was also wearing his seat belt and was also not injured in the collision.

The driver and passenger of the fifth vehicle, the 2020 Grand Cherokee, were also transported to Coon Memorial Hospital with minor injuries. The driver was Michelle Miller of Dubuque, Iowa, who is 58-years-old. The passenger was James Miller, age 59, who is also from Dubuque. Both were also wearing their seat belts.

The Hartley, Texline and Dalhart Fire Departments, Hartley County and Dallam County Sheriff’s Offices, Dalhart Police Department, and AMR ambulance service responded to the collision along with DPS. Cierra Towing, Amarillo Towing, M&S Towing, and Bob’s Towing also responded to the scene.

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