Justice of the Peace, Darrell Longino (left) performed an inquest at the scene (also pictured Sergeant Christian Schanmier with the Polk County Sheriff's Office).
Fatal Accident Near Onalaska, WEST POLK COUNTY, April 9, 2011 - At approximately 2:56 am on April 9, 2011, there was a vehicle rollover accident in West Polk County near the Trinity County line. A red 1994 Ford Ranger driven by James Hepworth, III, 28, of Trinity was north-bound on FM-356. According to Hepworth, he was having a bad argument with his passenger (his cousin, Catherine Eileen Schmidt, 31, also of Trinity). Hepworth stated to deputies with the Polk County Sheriff's Office that in the course of the argument he slammed on his brakes causing the vehicle to roll multiple times. Catherine Schmidt was ejected and believed to be killed on impact with the road. The vehicle came to rest upright in the middle of FM-356. Hepworth crawled out of the vehicle and was dazed. During this time, a south-bound white 1989 Ford truck driven by Jacob Pivonka, 18, of Trinity came upon Hepoworth's vehicle and didn't notice it until the last second and swerved right to avoid it. Pivonka's vehicle collided with Hepworth's vehicle knocking the truck around 75 feet back as Pivonka's vehicle left the road to the right and struck a tree. Onalaska Police Department and Deputies with the Polk County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to the scene along with the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department and Troopers David Flowers and Sergeant Nita Bowen with the Texas Highway Patrol. James Hepworth was transported to Livingston Memorial Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries and Jacob Pivonka was physically okay. All traffic on 356 was blocked during investigation and cleanup. Justice of the Peace Darrell Longino performed an inquest at the scene and ordered an autopsy on Catherine Schmidt. A first call car from Cochran Funeral Home recovered the body of Schmidt. A rollback wrecker from George White & Sons Wrecker Service recovered both vehicles and they will be stored in Onalaska. There was a smell of alcohol coming from Hepworth's vehicle. According to Trooper David Flowers, pending toxicology reports, James Hepworth, III, could be charged with intoxication manslaughter and other charges. The scene was cleared by 5:50 am.
Special thank you: Stash Anderson
UPDATE: According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, James Hepworth, III was intoxicated and is now facing charges of DWI Intoxication Manslaughter.
WARNING: The images and video below show scenes from the aftermath of a violent accident. If this offends you in any way, DO NOT scroll down this page or watch the video report.
Click here for a video report of this story.
James Hepworth's vehicle rolled several times after he slammed on the brakes during an argument with his cousin.
Hepworth's vehicle came to rest upright in the middle of FM-356 and then was slammed by an oncoming truck.
The truck was driven by Jacob Pivonka of Trinity. The truck left the road to the right and hit some trees. Pivonka was physically okay.
Trooper David Flowers with the Texas Highway Patrol listens to Jacob Pivonka's side of the story.
Officer Terry Valka with the Onalaska Police Department assisted in the investigation.
Catherine Eileen Schmidt of Trinity was killed during the rollover. A first call car from Cochran Funeral Homer recovered Schmidt.
Both vehicles were recovered by George White & Sons Wrecker Service.
Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department assisted in rescue, recovery, and cleanup.
Firemen clean the road of vehicle fluids.
If you would like to comment on this story, we'd love to hear from you. Your name will be listed with your comment when it's posted in the Letters to the editor.