In the early morning hours on Sunday, Nov. 29 police, fire and EMS departments were dispatched to a multi-vehicle accident at U.S. Highway 59 North and FM 961.
“The call came in on or about 3:56 a.m.,” Wharton Police Department reported through social media. “Upon arrival, it was discovered that a black Cadillac SUV traveling southbound near the exit left the main lanes, traveled through the grassy median and entered the northbound lanes where it collided with an oncoming Nissan Altima head on.”
The major accident claimed five lives, leaving a sole survivor in critical condition.
Jose Magallon, 37, of Houston, was the sole occupant in the black Cadillac SUV and pronounced deceased on the scene. Daniel Garcia, 25; Dominique Ramirez, 24; and Fernando Garcia, 21, all from San Benito, were passengers of the Nissan Altima and were pronounced deceased on the scene.
Two remaining occupants of the Nissan Altima, both under the age of three, were transported by Wharton EMS. Isaac Daniel Garcia, 2, was pronounced deceased at OakBend Medical and Isabella Monique Garcia, under the age of one, remains in critical condition at Memorial Hermann.
Wharton EMS Director John Kowalik told The County Gin the department makes particular preparations for holidays and holiday weekends.
“Holidays lead to heavier traffic on the roads, late night traveling and, possibly, impaired driving,” Kowalik said. “This is when we see an increase of calls on the highway and prepare by staffing a little higher, in order to have the trucks available.”
While Kowalik did not make scene to this particular accident, through his career and experience, he knows that his medics and staff could need time to cope with the devastation.
“Every medic handles every situation in a different way,” he told The Gin. “We try to make sure that we don’t compartmentalize this; We don’t want someone to not talk about any feelings that they have about a situation.
“We all have families. A medic could be caring for a patient that reminds them of a family member or a child, or they could have something that bothers them personally. We want to ensure that we discuss this and assist them working through possible trauma. We will call in resources like a pastor or critical stress team to talk with medics or first responders to help them as much as needed.”
Kowalik said even though he has experienced many relatable calls throughout his career, his department is fortunate to service communities outside of heavy metropolitan cities where instances like these occur more often.
“We are fortunate that we don’t see this often,” Kowalik told The Gin. “We know that traumatic calls are part of the job and we count our blessings that we don’t experience these devastating calls often.”