TxDOT report: Alcohol and speed factors in fatal Toll 49 crash

Published on Wednesday, 17 May 2017 21:26 - Written by LOUANNA CAMPBELL, lcampbell@tylerpaper.com

Speed and alcohol appear to have been factors in an April 12 crash that killed two people on Toll 49. 

According to an uncertified copy of a Texas Peace Officer's Crash Report obtained through the Texas Department of Transportation, Jessica Vass, 35, of Lindale, was traveling at a speed of 75 miles per hour. Her blood alcohol content was .148, which is almost twice the legal limit of .08. 

According to the report Vass was charged with two counts of intoxication manslaughter. 

Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham said Wednesday his office had yet to receive a case from the Texas Department of Public Safety. However, he said he spoke with a DPS investigator on Wednesday and was informed the case would be presented to his office soon. Once that happens, it would be presented to grand jury.

Vass is accused of killing Gary McCrary, 62, of Flint, and Annette Burkhart, 56, of Garland, who were out of their vehicles on the shoulder of the roadway. 

The crash occurred about 10:20 p.m.

McCrary was assisting Burkhart with changing her tire on the side of the road on Toll 49, north of Texas Highway 64, when a driver struck the back of one of the vehicles, pushing it into the other vehicle and ultimately both people, a preliminary crash investigation by TxDOT revealed. 

Vass was taken to ETMC but no injuries were cited in the report. 

McCrary was pronounced dead at the scene, and Burkhart was taken to a Tyler hospital, where she was pronounced dead.



The day after the crash officials with the North East Texas Regional Mobility Authority hosted a press conference to address the wreck and reminding the public the agency was working on safety improvements on the highway including a widening project. 

A representative said several safety improvements soon would be made to Segment 3B of Toll 49, where several fatalities occurred. That segment extends from Texas Highway 31 north to Interstate 20, a distance of about 10 miles, according to NET RMA.

Upcoming improvements include: widening that stretch of road by 4 feet; adding additional pavement to the existing roadway; repaving it with new asphalt; adding rumble strips, which help drivers stay within the lines; restriping it when complete; and adding additional signage. The second phase of the project is to add these improvements to the rest of the toll road.

- Augusta Robinson contributed to this report