HOUSTON - Two people were killed when a big rig crashed into a toll booth in northwest Harris County and burst into flames.
According to the Harris County Toll Road Authority, Alexandria Collins Flores, 19, was paying a toll in a cars only lane at the North Beltway 8 and North Sam Toll Plaza about 2:20 a.m. Friday morning when a Penske 18-wheeler rammed into the toll booth and landed on top of her Ford Explorer.
Both vehicles burst into flames, officials said.
Flores, as well as Michael Keith Winfield, 45, the driver of the truck, died instantly, detectives said.
Investigators said Winfield may have been distracted or fallen asleep, but they are still trying to determine what caused him to lose control. Winfield's family and his pastor say he juggled many roles, as a husband, father, truck driver, minister and more.
"He inspires me to be a better husband, better father, better brother," said his brother Derrick Steptoe. "So he's gonna be deeply missed."
"He had a full life, no idle time," said his pastor Eric Mosley. "He was either ministering to someone or he was working. He put a lot of pressure on himself," said Mosley.
While both grieving families wait to find out why this crash happened, the Winfields had these words for the family of Alexandria Flores: "We send our deepest condolences out to the other family," said Steptoe.
Officials said there are surveillance cameras on the toll booths, but they were destroyed in the crash.
Casey Cain witnessed the crash. She said she could have been involved in the crash.
"I think it was definitely a God sign, because I normally pay my toll, but for some reason I was like, no, I'm just going to get off on the feeder road," Cain said. "I was too lazy to stop. I didn't want to wait in line if there was a line to pay."
She said she heard a loud noise after she exited.
"Didn't even know there was another car involved because it was so engulfed in flames," Cain said.
A Penske representative said that the 18-wheeler has been rented to a customer.
The westbound lanes of the toll road were closed for hours. Two EZ Tag lanes were opened around 7 a.m. Fees were waived while detectives continued to investigate the scene. All of the lanes reopened about 5:30 p.m.
"I will never be able to pass by this tollway and not think of it," Cain said. "It was extremely traumatic to watch."
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