[UPDATE] FDLE Releases Review of I-75 Crashes from January 2012

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida; Eyewitness News Email
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida; Eyewitness News Email

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, April 27, 2012

David Royse, The News Service of Florida

No one acted with any criminal intent, but better communication, fixed signs and more attention a trooper who warned that smoke could quickly roll back on to the interstate might have prevented a massive fatal crash on smoky I-75 in January, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Thursday.

In a major review of crashes on the morning of Jan. 29 involving 25 vehicles that killed 11 people, the FDLE said personnel at the Florida Highway Patrol and several other agencies "acted in a manner which they believed was appropriate and in the best interest of restoring the safe and orderly flow of traffic to the roadways."

Gov. Rick Scott ordered the review after the crash, in the Paynes Prairie section of Alachua County, south of Gainesville.

But FDLE found several things that it said the Highway Patrol should change, some of them immediately to avoid a repeat of the early morning crash.

Some of its main findings were that the FHP doesn't have specific protocols on when and how to re-open roadways when visibility is low. The review recounts officers discussing the visibility and whether they think it's OK to drive, but there's nothing in their procedures spelling out when safety experts say it is OK, for example. FDLE also found that the Highway Patrol did little in the way of improving its smoke-and-fog procedures after a similar fatal crash on Interstate 4 in Polk County in 2008.

"The specific changes to FHPs policies and procedures were limited, and subsequent training provided to command personnel was ineffective and poorly memorialized," FDLE said of changes that were supposed to have been put in place after the 2008 crash.

There were several breakdowns in the early morning hours of Jan. 29, the review found.

One of the biggest problems that appears to have contributed to the disaster was a breakdown in human communications between officers and a failure to heed the warning of one trooper in particular, FHP Sgt. Bruce Simmons, who advised against re-opening I-75.

The interstate had been closed just after midnight because visibility was "zero," according to the Alachua County Sheriff's office, which asked that the highway, where there had also been an earlier accident, be shut down. FHP agreed. At the same time, the other major north-south roadway in the area, U.S. 441, was also closed because of smoke from the same fire in Paynes Prairie.

At about 3 a.m., the FHP commander on the scene, Lt. John Gourley, drove the section of interstate and conferred with other officers, saying he thought it could be re-opened, as the smoke and fog had lifted.

Simmons said by radio that he agreed the road appeared clear, but said he was "concerned that another cloud might roll through and then we got to through all this again." Gourley then said he'd keep Department of Transportation material nearby so it could quickly be closed again if need be, and an Alachua Sheriff's deputy told Gourley he'd keep personnel "rotating" in the area to monitor visibility.

According to the FDLE report, however, after the road was opened, all the Alachua Sheriff's personnel left the interstate.

A couple of troopers stayed in the area, but they were at a rest stop one working security and one writing a report. The others left the area. A short time later, about 4 a.m., the crash occurred.

"After the decision was made to reopen Interstate 75 on January 29, 2012, adequate resources were not dedicated to effectively monitor the environment, particularly when there was an apparent fear that limitation of visibility would likely reoccur," FDLE said. "Approximately twenty minutes prior to the fatal crashes, FHP Trooper Steven Downing reported the existence of dense smoke on US 441, in Paynes Prairie, less than one mile east of Interstate 75. However, no immediate measures were taken by FHP to actively monitor the conditions on Interstate 75 in Paynes Prairie."

Policy and training need to be improved, FDLE said, noting that Gourley later said he wasn't aware of any procedures for how to open or close a road and hadn't had any formal training on that. Gourley was aware of a section of FHP policy saying that it was his responsibility to "restore the orderly flow of traffic as soon as he was able."

Gourley told investigators that he believed the visibility was OK, and that he also factored in his personal knowledge that road closures often cause accidents as well. With U.S. 441 closed, the only available detour would have taken traffic onto a two lane road through a small town in the middle of the night, which he considered dangerous.

FDLE also said the state should review whether it has the appropriate amount of warning signs for certain dangerous areas, like Paynes Prairie, and that a permanent messaging system should be in place.

"Implementation of an effective means of monitoring these areas, and forewarning travelers of adverse conditions could enhance safety on the roadways," the review noted. "Due to the low-lying geography of Paynes Prairie, and the history of frequent environmental conditions that cause limitations in visibility in that area, a fixed messaging system should be implemented. These fixed signs and electronic message boards would forewarn travelers of hazardous conditions along the roadway."

There were no permanent warning signs on the stretch on interstate, and it took time to get temporary ones there. Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, filed legislation to get such signs and lawmakers appropriated $4 million to make upgrades of that nature. The Department of Transportation plans to study the best way to use the money in fog and smoke prone areas, a DOT spokesman said Thursday.

The review also noted that Simmons the trooper who had suggested keeping the roadway closed expressed anger about the ultimate decision to open it in a conversation with an Alachua deputy later that morning that was captured on his in-car video.

"I tried to tell them to leave that 'sum-buck' closed and they wouldn't listen to me. I said it's going to roll in again," Simmons can be heard saying. "They wouldn't freaking listen earlier.I said that it will roll in faster than you can shut it down. This crap wouldn't have happened if he'd have listened."

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FDLE Releases I-75 Investigation Report
by Whitney Ray

Tallahassee, FL -- April 26, 2012 --

We’re learning more tonight about the deadly pile up on I-75 that killed 11 people. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the accident and released its report today. As Whitney Ray tells us, it shows at least one trooper had concerns about reopening I-75 before the pileup began.

A deadly mixture of fog and smoke in the early morning hours of January 29th cost 11 people their lives. In a frantic 911 call you can hear the cars slamming in to each other on I-75 near Gainesville.

A report released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Thursday found that a lack in communication among state troopers may have contributed to the pile-up. A spokesperson for FDLE couldn’t comment in depth about the report.

“Everyone on duty that night acted in a manner they felt was appropriate,” said FDLE Spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger.

Two wrecks shortly before midnight caused by smoke from a near by wildfire and fog, forced the Florida Highway Patrol to shut down the interstate.

According to a timeline of events laid out in the report around 3:00 AM, an FHP lieutenant drove I-75. He could see a quarter to a half mile up the road. 20 minute later he drove the road again and claimed visibility had improved even more.

Before the 2nd run, FHP Sergeant Bruce Simmons told the lieutenant quote, “I’m concerned that another cloud might roll through and then we got to go though all this again.”

The sergeant’s concerns were ignored and at 3:30 the interstate was reopened. Around 4 AM, the pileup began; according to the report there was less than three feet of visibility. A spokeswoman says FHP officials are still reviewing the findings and a more in-depth response will be released in two to three weeks.

The report calls for FHP to change its road closure policies from guidelines to mandates. It also recommends FHP communicate better with DOT, the Florida Forest Service and other agencies when there are hazardous road conditions. An FHP Spokeswoman says some changes have already been made. More are coming soon.

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[UPDATE] - April 26, 2012

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has completed its review of the Interstate 75 crashes which occurred in January 2012. FDLE had been directed by Governor Rick Scott to conduct an investigation into the events which led to the fatal crashes and evaluate the protocols of involved government agencies.

A copy of this report is attached to this advisory in PDF format above.

A Florida Highway Patrol sergeant expressed concerns about reopening an interstate highway shortly before two massive crashes that killed 11 people.

A report obtained Thursday by The Associated Press says the FHP erred in reopening fog- and smoke-shrouded Interstate 75 shortly before the crash in January.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement report, though, said there were no criminal violations.

At least a dozen cars and pickup trucks, six semi-trailer trucks and a motor home collided in north Florida near Gainesville. Some vehicles burst into flames, making it difficult to identify the victims.

The highway was blanketed with smoke from a wildfire as well as fog.

The report also makes recommendations officials decide whether to change protocols for determining when to shut down and reopen highways.

During the early morning hours of January 29, 2012, eleven fatalities and six traffic crashes occurred on Interstate 75 in Alachua County, Florida. The crashes were the result of poor visibility in Paynes Prairie, a low-lying section of the interstate, south of Gainesville. Governor Rick Scott directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) conduct an investigation into the events which led to the fatal crashes and evaluate the protocols of involved government agencies.

FDLE evaluated the protocols of agencies involved in the events of January 28-29, 2012. FDLE also conducted an analysis of hundreds of hours of radio dispatch recordings, telephone recordings, Computer Aided Dispatch records, and audio/video recordings of the events. FDLE conducted interviews of dozens of sworn and civilian witnesses, each of whom had information pertinent to the investigation.

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[UPDATE] - Feb. 2, 2012 - Noon

The death toll from this weekend's chain reaction crash on Interstate-75 in Florida has now risen to 11. But there are fears for one of the survivors of that horror.
15-year-old Lidiane Carmo is struggling to recover from the accident that killed her father, mother and older sister.

At the small Baptist Church where he was pastor, pictures of Jose Carmo and his family who are from Brazil hang on a cork board. Each one breaks the heart of close friend and senior pastor Aron Amazonas. He says, "It's like we were in a nightmare, a terrible nightmare."

Pastor Junior as he was known, his wife Adriana and daughters Leticia and Lidiane along with an uncle and his girlfriend were returning to Atlanta from a church conference in Orlando. Early Sunday their van became engulfed in smoke on I-75 and crashed into a semi.

In an instant a family was almost completely wiped out. The only survivor was 15-year-old Lidiane who is hospitalized in Florida and has no memory of the crash.

Tuesday she was told the news. Pastor Aron says, "She had a good reaction, because at first she thought I don't know it could be worse. But she simply cried a little, we know she's trying to process everything. But she is doing well so far."

Lidiane faces more surgery but has no health insurance. Amazonas says the family and the church don't have the money to transport the bodies home or pay for five funerals. They even have to find another church for the services since their own is too small for so many caskets.

The Sunday before he died, Pastor Junior spoke to his congregation in their native Portuguese, the subject was prophetic.

"He was preaching his last sermon because he was preaching about the fact that we have to be prepared. That's what he said. God can call you anytime, and as a church we have to be prepared."

There were also concerns that Lidiane would be deported, because she was here in the U.S. illegally. Federal officials say, that will not happen.

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[UPDATE] GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Feb. 1, 2012 -

The body of an eleventh person has been found in a pickup truck days after a deadly pileup on Interstate 75, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

The Alachua County Medical Examiner's Office determined Tuesday that a third victim was inside a Dodge pickup truck that crashed into a tractor trailer as it traveled south early Sunday, authorities said. The driver and another passenger in that vehicle had not been identified early Wednesday.

The Highway Patrol on Tuesday also released the name of an eighth person killed in the crash. Vontavia Kiara Robinson, 22, of Williston, was the driver of a Pontiac Grand Prix that was involved in the southbound crash around 4 a.m. Sunday.

I-75 crash: One Georgia church's tragedy
911 tapes: Visibility was issue in deadly pileup
Fla. Highway Patrol defends reopening of I-75

The name of a passenger in Robinson's car has not been released.

Authorities closed the busy six-lane highway just after midnight Sunday because a mix of fog and smoke from a nearby brush fire made visibility difficult. A sergeant and lieutenant determined about three hours later that conditions had improved and the interstate was reopened to traffic.

The first pileup occurred a short time later. At least a dozen cars, six tractor trailers and a motorhome collided. Some cars were crushed under the bellies of big rigs. Others burst into flames, making it difficult to identify victims.

The crash sent another 18 people to the hospital.

The dead included Georgia pastor Jose Carmo, his wife Adriana and their teenage daughter Leticia. Another daughter remains in the hospital with serious injuries.

Statement from Governor Scott on Helping Victims of the Recent Traffic Accident on Interstate 75

Tallahassee, Fla. – “Following this weekend’s devastating automobile accident on Interstate 75 in Alachua County, I urge all Floridians to visit Florida’s Foundation at www.floridasfoundation.org to learn how to help the victims and their families during this tragic time.”
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UPDATED 2.1.2012 by Julie Montanaro

The president of FSU's Delta Zeta Sorority released a statement late Tuesday.

Four sorority sisters were injured in the I-75 pile up and one of them is still in the hospital.

"We are deeply saddened and concerned for the accident and all involved," wrote Delta Zeta President Allison Meyer. "We ask for your prayers and support as we will also offer ours to our chapter members, their families and others involved in the accident."

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UPDATED 1.31.2012 by Julie Montanaro

FSU's Director of Greek Life confirms at least four FSU students were involved in a deadly pile up on I-75 Sunday.

Robyn Brock says all four are members of the Delta Zeta sorority.

Brock says one of the sorority members remains hospitalized at Shands Hospital in Gainesville and the three others have been treated and released.

None of the Delta Zeta officers has responded to our request for more information and a young woman who greeted us at the door of the sorority house on West Jefferson Street says none of the sisters was allowed to talk with the media.

Brock says FSU will do everything it can to help the students involved in the crash manage their courses and their injuries and receive any counseling they may need.

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Florida Highway Patrol Details 1st of 2 I-75 Pileups
by Mike Schneider

Gainesville, FL (AP) - The Florida Highway Patrol says six people died and at least 16 people were injured after 10 vehicles crashed in the first of two pileups along a fog- and smoke-shrouded section of Interstate 75 near Gainesville.

Authorities released late Monday night details of the early Sunday wreck along the northbound lanes of I-75 that killed a Virginia man and five members of a church group from suburban Atlanta.

The highway patrol says 26-year-old Jason Lee Raikes of Richmond, Va., was killed in the 4 a.m. crash. They say Edson Carmo, 38; Roselia DeSilva, 41; Jose Carmo Jr., 43; Adrianna Carmo, 39; and Leticia Carmo, 17, all of Kennesaw, Ga., were killed.

In all, 10 people were killed in two pileups after the authorities reopened the highway that had been closed after a serious wreck.

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Florida Highway Patrol Defends Reopening I-75

Gainseville, FL (AP) - The Florida Highway Patrol says conditions were clear when they decided to reopen the interstate highway where 10 people were killed in two deadly pileups amid heavy smoke and fog.

Lt. Patrick Riordan said Monday in a news conference that visibility quickly deteriorated after they reopened the highway early Sunday morning. The crashes started shortly after.

About midnight, the highway patrol closed Interstate 75 near Gainesville because of low visibility but reopened it about 3:30 a.m. Pileups began about 15 minutes later, with survivors describing smoke and fog so thick they couldn't see.

Riordan says troopers did their "due diligence" before a sergeant and lieutenant decided to reopen the road. He says drivers have to be alert and be prepared to make good judgments.

***NOTE:***
FHP has released official crash reports. Those are attached above.

------------------------------

Last Updated at 12:42 p.m. Eastern


 


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The National Transportation Safety Board has two investigators at the site of the I-75 crash that killed 10, an official tells CBS News.


There is no specific threshold for investigating highway crashes, but the Board investigates "high consequence events and incidents." Ten people were killed and 18 others hospitalized in the multi-vehicle accident that occurred in low visibility early Sunday.


I-75 was reopened Monday morning as accident investigators tried to determine what caused the first crash that set off the fiery chain reaction that killed 10. The Florida Highway Patrol is leading the investigation.


CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports it may turn into a criminal investigation.


Drivers were blinded by a combination of fog and smoke caused by a nearby brushfire - and that fire may have been set intentionally. State officials can find no natural cause, no natural explanation like a lightning strike, which could have started the brush fires.


The disaster scene ran for one mile along I-75, littered with the burned-out shells of up to 19 vehicles, including at least seven tractor-trailers. In zero-visibility conditions, a combination of smoke and fog, drivers headed into a deadly multi-car pileup.


"As we were coming through the prairie, it went from crystal clear visibility to nothing in 50 feet," crash survivor Bert Thomas told CBS News.


Visibility was so poor that when rescuers first arrived on the scene, they could locate victims only by listening for moans and screams.


Florida Car Pile Up

A police dashcam photo shows poor visibility caused by fog and smoke on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, Fla., Jan. 29, 2012.


(Credit: Alachua County Sheriff's office)

 


Throughout the day, firefighters sprayed foam on smoldering wreckage and rescuers used machinery to pry victims from vehicles.


"It was a very traumatic situation and frightening situation to be out there on I-75. Hearing crashes, hearing explosions, hearing people scream," said Alachua County Sheriff spokesperson Sadie Darnell.


The interstate had been closed for a time before the accidents because of a mixture of fog and heavy smoke from a brush fire that may have been intentionally set. The decision to reopen it early Sunday will certainly be a focus of investigators, as will the question of how the fire may have started.


All lanes of I-75 reopened late Sunday, but authorities closed the highway again early Monday due to poor visibility caused by fog and smoke.


"It looked like the end of the world"


Steven R. Camps and some friends were driving home hours before dawn Sunday when they were suddenly drawn into the massive wreck.


"You could hear cars hitting each other. People were crying. People were screaming. It was crazy," the Gainesville man said hours later. "If I could give you an idea of what it looked like, I would say it looked like the end of the world."


The pileups happened around 3:45 a.m. Sunday on both sides of I-75. At least a dozen cars and six tractor-trailers were involved, and some burst into flames.


Hours later, twisted, burned-out vehicles were scattered across the pavement, with smoke still rising from the wreckage. Cars appeared to have smashed into the big rigs and, in one case, a motor home. Some cars were crushed beneath the heavier trucks.



The scene of a multi-vehicle accident that killed 10 people on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, Fla., Jan. 29, 2012.


(Credit: CBS)

Reporters who were allowed to view the site saw bodies still inside a burned-out Grand Prix. One tractor-trailer was burned down to its skeleton, charred pages of books and magazines in its cargo area. And the tires of every vehicle had burned away, leaving only steel belts.


Before Camps hit the fog bank, a friend who was driving ahead of him in a separate vehicle called to warn of the road conditions. The friend said he had just seen an accident and urged Camps to be careful as he approached the Paynes Prairie area, just south of Gainesville.


A short time later, Camps said, traffic stopped along the northbound lanes.


"You couldn't see anything. People were pulling off the road," he said.


Camps said he began talking about the road conditions to a man in the car stopped next to him when another vehicle hit that man's car.


The man's vehicle was crushed under a semi-truck stopped in front of them. Camps said his car was hit twice, but he and another friend were able to jump out. They took cover in the grass on the shoulder of the road.

All around them, cars and trucks were on fire, and they could hear explosions as the vehicles burned.

"It was happening on both sides of the road, so there was nowhere to go. It blew my mind," he said, explaining that the scene "looked like someone was picking up cars and throwing them."

Authorities had not released the names of victims Sunday evening, but said one passenger car had four fatalities. A "tour bus-like" vehicle also was involved in the pileup, police said.

All six lanes of the interstate were closed most of Sunday as investigators surveyed the site and firefighters put out the last of the flames. Some traffic was being diverted onto U.S. 301 and State Road 27, Lt. Patrick Riordan, a Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, said. The northbound lanes were reopened at about 5:30 p.m.

At some point before the pileup, police briefly closed the highway because of fog and smoke. The road was reopened when visibility improved, police said. Riordan said he was not sure how much time passed between the reopening of the highway and the first crash.

A spokeswoman for the Florida Forest Service, Ludie Bond, said the fire began Saturday, and investigators were trying to determine whether the blaze had been intentionally set. She said there were no controlled burns in the area and no lightning.

Bond also said the fire had burned 62 acres and was contained but still burning Sunday. A similar fire nearby has been burning since mid-November because the dried vegetation is so thick and deep. No homes are threatened.

Four years ago, heavy fog and smoke were blamed for another serious crash.

In January 2008, four people were killed and 38 injured in a series of similar crashes on Interstate 4 between Orlando and Tampa, about 125 miles south of Sunday's crash. More than 70 vehicles were involved in those crashes, including one pileup that involved 40 vehicles.

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January 30, 2012 - 11am -

US-441 and I-75 are both now open in both directions in Alachua and Marion counties.

___________________________



Florida Highway Patrolmen inspect the damage from a multi-vehicle accident that killed 10 people on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, Fla., Jan. 29, 2012.(AP)



(CBS/AP)


Updated at 7:03 a.m. Eastern

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Steven R. Camps and some friends were driving home hours before dawn Sunday when they were suddenly drawn into a massive pileup on Florida's Interstate 75.


"You could hear cars hitting each other. People were crying. People were screaming. It was crazy," the Gainesville man said hours later. "If I could give you an idea of what it looked like, I would say it looked like the end of the world."


Authorities were still trying to determine what caused the horrific pileup south of Gainesville, where a long line of cars and trucks collided one after another on a dark highway so shrouded in haze and smoke that drivers were blinded. At least 10 people were killed and another 18 were taken to a nearby hospital, Shands at the University of Florida. As of Sunday night, six patients remained in the trauma center and three others admitted through the emergency room remained.


The interstate had been closed for a time before the accidents because of a mixture of fog and heavy smoke from a brush fire that may have been intentionally set.


In addition to looking at how the fire started, CBS News correspondent Mark Strassmann reports there are many other unanswered questions lingering Monday morning - including whether the accident could have been avoided. Drivers were blinded by a combination of fog and smoke caused by a nearby brushfire. Visibility was so bad, officials had closed the highway for a time but then decided to re-open it. And then the disaster happened.


"Visibility was good - good enough that we felt travel was safe," Florida Highway Patrolman Lt. Patrick Riordan tells CBS News. "We opened the roadway, and I don't know exact time periods, but sometime after that was when we had these series of collisions."


Investigators are trying to determine whether the fire was intentionally set. A state forestry spokeswoman said there were no controlled burns in the area and no lightning reported.


Authorities also must figure out when to reopen the southbound lanes of I-75, the north-south highway that runs virtually the entire length of Florida. Complicating matters is that some of the road's asphalt melted. The northbound lanes were reopened late Sunday afternoon.


"Our standard operating procedure is to get the road open as quickly as possible but let's not forget we have 10 people who are not with us today," Lt. Patrick Riordan, a Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, said Sunday evening. "So we are going to take our time assessing the situation."


The pileups happened around 3:45 a.m. Sunday on both sides of I-75. When rescuers first arrived, they could only listen for screams and moans because the poor visibility made it difficult to find victims in wreckage that was strewn for nearly a mile.


At least a dozen cars and six tractor-trailers were involved, and some burst into flames.


Hours later, twisted, burned-out vehicles were scattered across the pavement, with smoke still rising from the wreckage.


Cars appeared to have smashed into the big rigs and, in one case, a motor home. Some cars were crushed beneath the heavier trucks.


Reporters who were allowed to view the site saw bodies still inside a burned-out Grand Prix. One tractor-trailer was burned down to its skeleton, charred pages of books and magazines in its cargo area. And the tires of every vehicle had burned away, leaving only steel belts.

Rep. Charles Chestnut Statement On Fatal I-75 Car Crashes

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- State Rep. Charles Chestnut IV (D-Gainesville) issued the following statement in response to Sunday's fatal car crashes on Interstate 75 near Gainesville.

"I am deeply saddened by Sunday's tragic and fatal car crashes. My thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives and those who have sustained injuries. I know the citizens of Gainesville and Alachua County share the grief of those who are mourning losses.

"Many area public safety workers, Florida Highway Patrol officers, doctors and nurses, and other residents have participated in the emergency response to these crashes, and I sincerely appreciate their kindnesses and extraordinary service."

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Update--Gainesville, FL-- January 29, 2012--4:30

The Florida Highway Patrol says 10 people have died in a series of early-morning crashes on a dark highway that was shrouded in haze and smoke.

Officials say at least 18 were injured in crashes on both sides of Interstate 75 south of Gainesville shortly before 4 a.m. Sunday.

Authorities are trying to determine what caused the pileup. The highway had been closed for a time because of the mixture of fog and heavy smoke from a brush fire that may have been intentionally set. At least five cars and six tractor-trailers were involved.

Dr. Timothy Flynn, chief medical officer for Shands Healthcare, says three of the six patients being treated in the trauma center needed surgery. Four patients remain in the hospital's emergency room, and eight people have been treated and released.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- Authorities say at least nine people died in a series of crashes apparently caused by heavy smoke and fog overnight on Interstate 75 in north Florida.

Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan says the pileups happened around 3:45 a.m. Sunday on both sides of I-75 south of Gainesville. All lanes of the interstate are still closed.

He says several people were also injured and taken to Gainesville hospitals. Their conditions were unclear.

Riordan says FHP had closed the highway briefly overnight because of the mixture of smoke and fog in the Paynes Prairie area. It was reopened shortly before the crashes occurred.

The crashes involved four to five large commercial vehicles and at least six passenger vehicles.

Riordan says U.S. 441 is also closed and traffic is being diverted onto U.S. 301 and State Road 27.

FHP says all lanes on I-75 north and south bound at mile marker 379 in Alachua County are closed and will be for several hours.


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