Out of Gainsville Florida on Sunday, a massive pileup of up to 20 vehicles left at least ten people dead and 17 injured possibly due to smoke from a marsh fire on Interstate 75, according to authorities.
Investigators believe the multiple crashes could have happened anywhere between 11:00 p.m. Saturday and 4:00 a.m. Sunday and occurred not only on the north-bound, but also on the south-bound side of I-75.
Florida Highway Patrol Public Affairs Officer Lt. Pat Riordon, said multiple vehicles crashed with most on the very severe side. Riordan said in his 27-year career with the Florida Highway Patrol, this is the worst accident he's seen. Some vehicles were badly compressed the FHP officer communicated.
Highways were closed for a time and reopened. “Actually the road had been closed earlier in the morning. It was assessed; conditions improved to a point where the road was reopened. These occurred after we reopened the road,” Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan said. “When you do have fog and are in a season when you have foggy conditions and smoke, we recognize the potential that it can affect road conditions. We had people out here monitoring.”
A string of collisions occurred going in both directions. The vehicles involved included up to 20 cars and five commercial motor vehicles. In one such collision, the vehicles caught fire and were completely destroyed.
Sheriff's Sgt. Todd Kelly said, "The smoke is from a brush fire at the nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park." Darkness was also thought to be a "contributing factor" in the crashes.
At least ten are dead, and 17 are being treated at Shands at the University of Florida hospital.
A nearby marsh fire occurred in the area before the crashes took place around 4:00 a.m. in the morning, according to troopers. Visibility became almost nil as the smoke settled in the interstate.
In January of 2008 a devastating 70 car pile up occurred on I-4 near Tampa, due to a brush fire.
The Gainesville Sun