FORT WORTH, Texas — A fiery accident on Interstate 30 in Fort Worth early Monday morning has left a father dead; a wrong-way driver behind bars; and serious damage to a major highway that will take months to repair.
"Well, I'm really sorry," said Louis Nieves, the 23-year-old man suspected of causing the deadly fireball.
Around 2:30 a.m., police started getting frantic 911 calls that a driver was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes of I-30 near downtown.
Minutes later, fuel tanker truck driver Alejandro Raya, 45, lost his life at the hands of that suspected drunk driver several miles down the road near the Beach Street exit.
Nieves, who is being held at the Mansfield jail, has just a few stitches above his eye, but his wounds are deeper. News 8 told him about Raya's family, his surviving wife and three children.
"I know I committed an accident, a real bad accident," Nieves said. "I feel sorry for that family that lost that person."
Family members told News 8 that Nieves has been in Fort Worth for just a few months. He moved from Washington state with dreams of starting his own restaurant.
His aunt and uncle were surprised when he called to tell them he was at a party at a bar on Sunday night.
Raya's brother said the trucker had phoned his wife around midnight to say he had just a couple more deliveries before coming home.
Nieves told News 8 he remembers drinking about 10 beers, but doesn't remember anyone trying to stop him from driving.
"I am very sorry. Really, really sorry. My mistake. Bad decision that I made," he said. "I am really sorry. Really sorry."
Nieves said he has no memory of getting on I-30 in the wrong direction, no memory of the crash, and no memory of the explosion that took Alejandro Raya's life.
A police officer woke him up in the hospital and told him he was going to jail because he killed someone.
"I wish someone could help me," Nieves said.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission is looking into the bar and bartender at the party Nieves attended on Sunday night. If Nieves was served after he was intoxicated, the owner of the establishment could face jail time and its liquor license could be in jeopardy.
The wreck and its aftermath caused delays for Monday morning rush hour motorists, and the delays continued into the evening hours as the highway was shut down for cleanup and inspection.
The Texas Department of Transportation is now planning extensive emergency repairs to the damaged road surface... repairs that are expected to take months.
After the flames burned themselves out, TxDOT assessed the damage to Interstate 30. The extreme heat warped steel supports under one side of the highway bridge over Sycamore Creek. Repairs could take up to five months.
A TxDOT spokesperson said that's because steel beams have to be designed and manufactured, and the concrete road surface must be replaced.
The two left lanes of westbound I-30 were expected to reopen sometime Monday evening, which means traffic flow can resume between Beach Street and Riverside Drive.