Friend of man killed in fiery Toll 49 crash speaks out about safety concerns

Friend of man killed in fiery Toll 49 crash speaks out about safety concerns

SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - Friends of an East Texas man are calling for more safety measures on Toll 49 following a fiery crash last week.

Kendrick Hartsfield was one of three people who died in the wreck after his 18-wheeler crossed into oncoming traffic during heavy rain.

Shawn Gross lost his best friend, Kendrick Hartsfield last Wednesday, when Hartsfield’s 18-wheeler hydroplaned across the two-lane road and collided with a car.

“Enough is enough. With all of the fatalities, something can be done about it,” Shawn Gross said. “It hurts when you hear of a loss of life, but when it’s someone you know and someone you’re used to seeing all of the time, it just hurts."

Three people died in a wreck that Gross believes could have been avoided.

“If they just took the time to install the concrete barriers in the middle of the road, that would work,” Gross said.

The Northeast Texas Regional Mobility Authority met Tuesday for a general board meeting and began with a prayer for the lives lost.

Afterwards, NET RMA Executive Director Chris Miller acknowledged the request for concrete medians.

“We do not have any construction plans in that respect,” Miller said.

However, safety improvements have been initiated all over the 32-mile stretch of road, including multiple warning signs for drivers.

“They’ve got stripes, they’ve got rumble strips in those medians, so people know, if you’re paying attention, that you’ve crossed the line and you need to get back in your lane,” Miller said.

Miller said Toll 49 was never meant to be a four-lane road, but he says widening the roadway is the only way to add medians and that could be possible in the future if finances allow.

NET RMA says they are looking at the possibility of adding a roadway assistance feature to Toll 49 for any drivers with car trouble.

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