A personal highway project: Victims' families break ground

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

WFAA

Posted on August 2, 2012 at 6:31 PM

Updated Thursday, Aug 2 at 9:24 PM

DENTON - A dangerous stretch of Highway 380 is getting a much-needed makeover. It's an eight-mile section that runs just west of Denton into Wise County.

The groundbreaking ceremony took place Thursday beneath a small tent in front of a gas station next to the two lane road.

It looked insignificant. It was anything but.

Teenage friends Samantha Rogers and Delaney Mancil died in a chain-reaction crash on this stretch of the highway in 2010. The girls were on their way from Alvord to Denton when they were killed. Their parents say too many others have died on the same narrow pavement between Denton and Wise County.

The girls' families launched a fight to make it safer.

"We started writing everyone from the governor on down," said Eva Czerniak, Samantha's mother. "And we went full circle, getting letters back saying there's no money in the budget."

They collected 4,000 signatures and bombarded state, local and federal officials with pleas for help.

Czerniak said they got rejected over and over with the same refrain.

"'Not my job, not my job, not my job,'" Czerniak recalled.

Finally, though, they won. A TxDOT official told them it was democracy in action.

"Way long overdue," said Delaney's mom, Debbie Mancil. "I wish it had been done before the girls went to Denton."

The project will double the lanes for eight miles.

Friends and family members gathered in the heat, crying and wearing purple T-shirts with the girls' names. Trucks and cars roared by a few feet away.

"As long as it maybe helps save someone else's life, that's the main thing," Debbie Mancil said.

"It's a bittersweet day," Eva Czerniak said. "We can't bring our girls back. But we turned tragedy into a positive.  Our girls are up there smiling right now."

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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