Survivor of twister dies in car crash

January 4, 2014

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A 36-year-old Hood County man who was a survivor of Hood County’s May 15 tornado was pronounced dead at the scene of an early-morning one-vehicle rollover accident on New Year’s Day on Fall Creek Highway not far from his home, according to officials and family members.

John Paul Zapata, of the 6400 block of Fall Creek Highway, was driving a 2004 Chevrolet Avalanche south of Acton, near Victorian Court east of Granbury, when the vehicle failed to negotiate a curve just before 4:30 a.m., DPS Senior Trooper Dub Gillum said.

“(The vehicle) left the roadway, striking a tree and rolling,” Gillum said. “The vehicle struck the tree on the driver’s side.”

Family members said Zapata was a survivor of the tornado that struck his former neighborhood in the Rancho Brazos subdivision. He was a rock layer who worked with a family business as well as on his own. He grew up in Hood County and attended Granbury High School, where he was a runner on the track team.

“He was a loving son, a loving brother, a loving uncle – and everybody loved him,” said Zapata’s mother, Hood County resident Eva Zapata.

Dale Maynard, uncle of his first wife, said Zapata had four daughters, two step-daughters and one step-son. Other survivors are his father Fernando Zapata, twin brother John Allen Zapata, and sisters Beatrice Gamez and Victoria Zapata, all of Hood County.

Maynard said Zapata was hard-working, fun-loving and outgoing.

“When he would walk into a room, he would make everybody light up,” Maynard said, noting that Zapata lived with him more than once at his home in the Sunset Acres subdivision while growing up. “Everything to him, was fun. It had to be. And he was a good father. He thought the world of his kids. He never turned anybody down that asked for help. Mostly, he was just an all-out good guy.”

Maynard said that Zapata was a third-generation rock worker.

“He was an artist when it came to that,” he said.

Gillum said Zapata was wearing a seat belt.

Justice of the Peace Judy Watson pronounced Zapata dead at the scene at 5:25 a.m. He had left a New Year’s party, alone.

“I feel sure it was alcohol-related,” Watson stated, noting that there were major injuries to Zapata’s head and body. Zapata’s body was taken to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s Office in Fort Worth for an autopsy.

Funeral services had not been set by press time.

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