In 2017, officials from the Texas Department of Transportation, the Lufkin Police Department and the city of Lufkin engaged in talks that led to changes to the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard/Loop 287 area in response to two fatal accidents that occurred within days of each other in 2016.
Looks like it’s time for another talk.
Newly configured left-turn-only lanes on Loop 287/North Medford Drive were reopened to motorists in December 2017 after the previous crossovers were redesigned to enhance the safety of the roadway in response to the 2016 fatalities.
Yet since that time, the area continues to be a magnet for crashes.
At least one person was taken to the hospital from the scene of a three-vehicle crash involving an 18-wheeler near the intersection of Ellen Trout Drive and Sayers Street in January 2019. Initial investigations conducted by authorities on the scene indicate a Chevrolet Sonic LT failed to yield right of way and struck a Pontiac Bonneville on Ellen Trout Drive.
As a result of the crash, the Pontiac skidded into the median of Ellen Trout Drive and the Chevrolet remained in the middle of the eastbound lane. A fully-loaded 18-wheeler approached the scene in the eastbound lane shortly after and was unable to stop or completely avoid the Chevrolet, hitting the car.
As a result of the crash, the Pontiac sustained heavy damage to its passenger side and front, the Chevrolet sustained damage to its driver’s side and front, and one of the 18-wheeler’s tires was damaged. Paramedics removed one person in the Chevrolet from the scene via ambulance.
Fast-forward to this month, when after a two-vehicle wreck at the intersection of Loop 287 and Sayers Street Oct. 1, Kailyn Walker, 23, of Lufkin, was listed in extremely critical condition at the University of Texas Health in Tyler.
Walker was flown to Tyler and four other patients were taken to local hospitals after the accident, in which a Hyundai Sonata driven by Marcus Williams, 39, of Lufkin, carrying Walker in the passenger seat and her boyfriend Kendrick Wortham, 26, of Lufkin, and Kevin Page, 24, of Lufkin, in the backseat, attempted to cross the intersection of Sayers Street at Ellen Trout Drive into the path of an eastbound Toyota 4Runner, according to a press release from Jessica Pebsworth, the city’s communications director.
“Based on severe front-end damage to the 4Runner and severe passenger-side damage to the Sonata, it appears the car was T-boned on its passenger side by the SUV,” Pebsworth said.
Terri Wilkie, 38, of Zavalla, was driving the 4Runner, which rolled on impact while the Hyundai veered off into the road, went through a tree line and crashed into a creek, the press release states.
Walker was trapped in the partially submerged vehicle, and it took firefighters roughly 30 minutes to free her when a medical helicopter landed at the scene and transported her to a Tyler hospital.
Williams will be cited for failure to yield the right of way, no insurance and displaying the wrong license plates, and the crash remains under investigation, the press release states.
Seven days later, a Louisiana woman died in a wreck on Loop 287 in front of Ellen Trout Zoo.
Phyllis Scott, 77, of Lake Charles, Louisiana, was traveling to visit family in Dallas when the accident occurred, according to a press release from Pebsworth. Scott was pronounced dead on the scene by Justice of the Peace Pct. 1 Billy Ball.
While driving her white Toyota Avalon, Scott turned into traffic as she came off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. She failed to yield the right of way to an 18-wheeler, police said.
The driver of the 18-wheeler was Matthew Fry, 43, of Minden, Louisiana, and his passenger was Natasha White, 41, of Jacksonville. Both were checked out by emergency medics on the scene before being transferred to a local hospital, where they were treated and released that day, Pebsworth said.
So despite the fairly recent safety enhancements, it’s clear that area needs more attention, whether it be red lights, flashing stop signs, feeder roads or something else. But the fact of the matter is there are visibility issues in that area that make pulling out onto the loop a dicey — and too often deadly — proposition.
We urge TxDOT, LPD and city officials to put their heads together again and see what more can be done to improve safety in that area before another life is lost.