Watford City mayor calls out state after deathsThe deaths of two Watford City teenagers in a horrific crash has the city's mayor calling for state officials to do more about traffic problems in the booming western oil patch.
WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — The deaths of two Watford City teenagers in a horrific crash has the city's mayor calling for state officials to do more about traffic problems in the booming western oil patch.
“It makes me sick to think of children dying on our roads,” Brent Sanford told The Bismarck Tribune. "It's a nightmare."
Hank Allen, 17, and Austin McCaulley, 18, died Tuesday when the sport utility vehicle they were riding in slid on ice on U.S. Highway 85 about 2 miles west of the city, collided with an oncoming semitrailer and split in half, according to the Highway Patrol. The SUV's driver, Fenton Matthew, 17, of Watford City, was flown to a Minot hospital with unspecified injuries. The semi driver, from Texas, was not hurt.
The three teens had previously attended high school but were no longer enrolled, Watford City School Superintendent Steve Holen said.
Sanford said state Department of Transportation officials have not acted quickly enough to keep up with a dramatic increase in traffic in the oil fields in recent years.
“We've got two-lane highways instead of four-lane, and 10,000 trucks going through here a day,” he said. “When are we going to believe this (oil activity) is here to stay?”
State Transportation Department spokeswoman Peggy Anderson said the state spent $50 million on U.S. Highway 85 improvements in the past two years and plans to spend another $300 million to convert the stretch between Watford City and Williston — the hub city in the oil patch — into four lanes.
“We are concerned about fatalities and we have worked hard on that highway,” Anderson said.
Watford City is the seat of McKenzie County, where nearly one-third of the 186 drilling rigs currently operating in the oil patch are located. Some residents are afraid to even venture out on the roads, Sanford said.
“It's an absolute horror story. All the parents don't want to let their kids drive,” he said.