Texas

Truck driver who lost wife in fiery I-35 crash remains in burn center

Michelle Whitehead (left) died in the fiery crash that left her husband Sidney (right) badly burned.

WACO, Texas  Truck driver Sidney Whitehead, 46, who lost his wife Michelle when his 18-wheeler slammed into a parked dump truck on Interstate 35 and burst into flames remains in the burn unit of Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas.

Whitehead and his wife were hauling a load of avocados when their 18-wheeler hit a construction dump truck parked in the interstate median just before 5 a.m. on Jan. 9.

Whitehead was taken first to Baylor Scott & White Medical Center in Waco and then was transferred to Parkland.

Whitehead was burned over 13 percent of his body.

“He has undergone two surgeries and is still not walking on his own,” his daughter said Monday.

Michelle Whitehead’s body was not discovered until after the truck and cab were towed to a nearby holding yard.

Her husband didn’t learn she was dead until after he’d been transferred to Dallas.

“It was a very difficult thing to tell him mom had died when he was in the burn unit suffering from injuries he received in the crash,” his daughter said.

His stay in the burn unit is expected to be a long one, she said.

Person dies in auto pedestrian crash involving semi on I-35

– Southbound I-35 near Middle Fiskville Road was shut down for several hours after a person was killed in a crash involving a semi.

Austin police say this was the first traffic fatality of the year. The person killed has only been identified as a white man in his 30s.

Officials say the man was trying to cross the interstate in the 9500 block of I-35 South when he was hit by a semi truck just before 6:30 a.m.

Police shut down all southbound lanes while they investigated the crash. Lanes were reopened at around 10 a.m.

Officials say no charges are expected to be filed against the driver of the semi.

Texas man charged in fatal crash sparked by egg-throwing prank

A Texas man is being charged for his role in a fatal New Year’s Day crash after he allegedly flashed his gun and chased a 14-year-old driver who egged his car, police said.

Christopher Lopez, 48, is charged with manslaughter, failure to stop and render aid, and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in connection with the Houston crash, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office announced Monday. His bond was set at $60,000 on Tuesday.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office said it all started when the teen, who was in a GMC Acadia with two other teens, threw eggs at vehicles.

Lopez allegedly flashed a semi-automatic handgun at the GMC Acadia SUV full of teens.

Lopez’s car was damaged by the eggs. He then decided to chase the teens.

The teen driver ran a red light to escape, slamming head-on into a Ford pickup truck and killing its driver, 45-year-old single mom Silvia Zavala, according to police.

Lopez, who was driving a tan 1970s Lincoln Continental, did not stop at the scene of the crash, officials said. He faces up to 20 years behind bars if he’s convicted of any of the felony charges. Lopez has no prior convictions.

While in court, prosecutors said, “Had he (Lopez) not escalated a juvenile prank, a woman (Silvia) would still be alive.” He has since posted his $60,000 bond.

The 14-year-old driver, who is not being identified because of his age, faces a murder charge. He broke his ankle in the crash. Friends riding in the car with him were not harmed.

Zavala’s daughter, Jessica Gaspar, spoke out about the teen’s murder charge following her mother’s death.

“I feel bad for him. He’s just 14 years old but he took my entire life away from me.

“Even though he’s 14, he took my mom’s life away. He took it. And she was the only one I had,” she added.

Weak Demand, Falling Prices Signal New Troubles for Oilfield Services

Crude oil storage tanks are seen from above at the oil hub, in Cushing, Oklahoma, U.S., March 24, 2016.

HOUSTON  – The recent drop in U.S. oil prices to around $46 a barrel and insufficient demand are throwing into doubt the prospects for oilfield service companies in 2019 and may portend a wave of restructuring and consolidation of an industry still recovering from the 2014 downturn in energy markets.

Despite record U.S. oil production and exports, producers are reducing their spending and learning to do jobs with fewer crews. There have not been the wholesale staff cutbacks such as the ones that occurred three years ago, but investors and analysts expect consolidation in the services sector as work dwindles and share prices fall.

Even service companies that have strong businesses have been unable to get contract prices back to pre-crash levels. At onshore driller Scandrill Inc, all of its 15 rigs are active in U.S. oilfields. When two clients decided to stop drilling, new customers picked up the slack.

However, the rates that Scandrill charges for its rigs are below where they were at the depths of the 2014 oil price crash, said President Paul Mosvold.

“We won’t see an increase in daily operating margin or the daily rig contracting rate soon,” he said in a phone interview this month.

Some oil producers have cut services work. Diamondback Energy this month released two of its 10 hydraulic fracturing crews and next year plans to operate between 18 and 22 drilling rigs, down from 24 rigs at work earlier this month.

Oilfield services company investors are cutting their holdings. The Philadelphia SE Oil Service Index <.OSX>, which tracks some of the largest oilfield service companies, this week fell below 81, the lowest since 2003 and below where it traded when oil prices crashed to near $26 a barrel in 2016.

With oil prices at their lowest level in over a year, the services sector should brace for a wave of restructurings and consolidation.

“The oilfield sector has the largest group of struggling companies within the energy industry. I think these companies need to consolidate, no matter what,” said Sean Wheeler, a mergers and acquisition attorney at law firm Kirkland & Ellis.

Wheeler has been fielding inquiries from service providers wanting to evaluate options for restructuring if prices do not recover.

Contract driller Parker Drilling in December filed for pre-arranged bankruptcy after failing to earn an annual profit since 2014, when oil prices started a long decline.

One problem is the number of companies operating in the market, attorneys and analysts said. Competition for fewer jobs is making it hard for service companies to raise prices – something that is benefiting shale producers.

“The availability of frac crews is great for us,” said Bob Watson, chief executive of Abraxas Petroleum Corp.

Watson said he was shocked recently when Abraxas received 15 bids for a one-well frack job in the Permian Basin of West Texas and New Mexico.

“We got a very good price,” he said. “Things are slowing down on the completion side.”

The weaker outlook is pressuring shares of top oilfield firms. Schlumberger NV and Halliburton Co are trading below levels seen during the last oil-price downturn, and Weatherford International Plc recently warned investors its shares could be delisted from the New York Stock Exchange if it can not lift its stock price above $1.

“There is a significant number of companies with liquidity and debt maturity issues,” said Sajjad Alam, an analyst with debt rating firm Moody’s Investors Service.

Three people killed in crash in Elgin, Texas.

 – Officials say three people have been killed in a crash in Elgin.

It happened at around 6:30 a.m. on westbound 290 and Roy Davis. Officials say the crash involved a vehicle and an 18 wheeler.

290 is shut down in both directions in the area as the investigation into the crash continues.

Officials say a truck tractor semi-trailer and a Chevy Tahoe were both traveling eastbound on 290 when the semi-trailer attempted to make a left turn onto Roy Davis and failed to yield the right of way to the Tahoe.

The Tahoe struck the trailer and officials say the driver and two people in the Tahoe died on scene.

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.