• December 16, 2021

Dennis Criner Killed in Fiery Auto Accident on TX-64 near Tyler

UPDATE (January 24, 2022): Recent reports indicate that Texas officials arrested driver Daniel Juarez on a felony intoxicated manslaughter with a vehicle charge on Thursday, January 20.

UPDATE (December 17, 2021): The victim of this accident has been identified as 54-year-old Dennis Criner. The other driver involved in the crash was also identified as Daniel Juarez.

Further investigation suggests Criner was headed east on the highway as Juarez was westbound on the other side of the road in the same area. Reports say Juarez, allegedly traveling at an unsafe speed, lost control on the wet roadway and crossed left of center. The westbound Lincoln Town Car entered a side-skid and collided with Criner's eastbound Ford Escape. After the impact the Lincoln caught fire and became fully engulfed.

Criner was transported to a Tyler hospital where he was pronounced dead. Juarez was also taken to a Tyler hospital where he was listed in serious condition.

Tyler, TX -- December 14, 2021, at least one person was killed in a fiery auto accident on State Highway 64 around five miles east of Tyler.

Authorities say the incident happened around 6:50 p.m. on Highway 64 West at Farm to Market Road 724, near Tyler Pounds Regional Airport. The circumstances of the accident aren't clear but reports indicate emergency crews found two vehicles collided in the area and one of them was on fire.

Investigators confirmed at least one person was killed in the collision.

No further information is currently available.

Commentary on Dennis Criner Accident on TX-64 near Tyler

UPDATE (January 24, 2022): Police charged the suspect with intoxication manslaughter. That charge is reserved for times when investigators believe an intoxicant (usually alcohol) was a primary contributing factor or even the proximate cause of a crash.

If evidence supports that charge then some of my previous comments about the need to find out where the alcohol came from may need their volume turned up some. The suspect seems likely to face some stiff consequences for his choices that evening, but he may not be the only one who should.

Texas dram shop law says that a licensed alcohol vendor that over-serves an obviously intoxicated customer may be liable for any injuries that customer causes or suffers while under the influence. In this accident that would mean if the suspect drank excessive quantities of alcohol at a local bar or restaurant, that business may have a legal obligation to make whatever amends it can to the family of the person he fatally injured.

Not every DWI crash also involves a dram shop violation, and I don't claim to have any special inside knowledge that one occurred here. I only know from long experience that many victims and families are never aware they have such rights and have to endure the difficulties of recovering alone even when they were actually entitled to help. That's why I try to shine a light on dram shop law whenever it's possible it could apply.

Dennis Criner Killed in Fiery Auto Accident on TX-64 near Tyler

UPDATE (December 17, 2021): After some additional work, investigators now say a driver lost control while speeding on a wet road and caused the wreck by crossing over the center line. I have no reason to doubt that story, as similar accidents happen every day. People don't always make wise choices in bad weather or less-than-ideal road conditions, and speeding on a suboptimal surface can lead to this exact kind of situation.

In my previous comments I noted that it's important to consider circumstances outside just the most common explanations. Police think speeding was a big part of what happened here, but it looks like the slick road may have also been influential. Properly understanding all the contributing factors to a crash is crucial, which often means realizing that wrecks can happen because of a combination of factors--not just a single element.

With that in mind, I hope investigators won't close the books until they're certain any lingering questions are answered. One that comes to mind right away is whether the driver speeding on the wet road was in full possession of his faculties at the time. Put a different way: Was he drunk?

That may sound cruel or rude, but I'm only suggesting a possible issue that should also be considered. I know from long experience that many drivers both speed and fail to compensate for adverse conditions because they aren't thinking straight--a well-known side effect of being under the influence. It should get some attention, if for no other reason than to rule it out as a possible factor. At the very least the victim's loved ones deserve to know they're getting the whole story.

ORIGINAL: Right now reports only have minimal information about this crash and it's anyone's guess how it happened. I'm not coming down on police for not having all the dots connected this soon after the incident, but that does mean news reports about it are frustratingly vague. Hopefully the cause and circumstances of the wreck will become clear with further careful examination.

However, I understand that some may feel a sense of impatience waiting for answers. They may decide that any holes in the facts can be adequately filled with speculation. Comments sections on news articles are often filled with these "armchair detectives" suggesting that one driver or another was texting or speeding, then lost control and triggered the wreck. Others are inclined to say impairment was a likely factor, even though the news made not even a peep about it.

In fairness all three of those issues are common causes for similar accidents, but there are also many other explanations that must be properly evaluated. Investigators must still look into many factors: Driver-related issues like speeding or intoxication, certainly, but also problems with the vehicles themselves, road conditions and design, visibility, lighting and sightlines, inclement weather, other traffic in the area, and many other elements that could have influenced or even caused the collision. Considering all the accident's potential variables is essential to learning the truth of the matter.

In the meantime I want to reiterate that making assumptions is both unwise and unjust. I've seen too many cases where people rushed to premature judgment after reading a vague news release, only for details to come to light that completely changed the context of the wreck. The same thing could happen here, though it's possible a standard police investigation might not explain things as thoroughly as one would hope. That's why I tend to suggest an independent investigation to make sure the whole truth is found. Whatever is discovered, those affected deserve to know that every effort was made to bring them all the available answers. Any further steps would depend largely on what those answers turn out to be.


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