It looked like Iraq after the bombs had fallen. Another described it to be like an ere movie about their cities after a disaster. Still others compared it to the aftermath of an earthquake. But this time, the man made disaster was real and very close to home. Piecing together what happened is more complicated then saying that a bunch of cars and semis all collided and blocked I -75 near Gainesville, Florida. The reason for the collision is not clear. Perhaps that is the point of the whole investigation. What caused the heavy smoke that reduced visibility so badly that a tragedy ending the life of 10 people ensued?
The smoke was so bad that first responders could not see the victims. Rather, they had to try and locate victims by following their screams and moans. Poor visibility stretched for about a mile. Upon further investigation we learned that Interstate 75 had been closed earlier in the evening because of the mixture of fog and heavy smoke from a brush fire. Investigation continues as to whether the brush fire was intentionally set. The fire reportedly began on Saturday. There had been no report of lightning nor any controlled burns in the area. As of Sunday, the fire had burned 62 acres but was thought to be under control.
The accident involved at least a dozen cars, six tractor-trailers and a motor home. Some of the vehicles were badly damaged by fire. Bent, burned-out vehicles were scattered across the highway. Many of the vehicles had smoke still permeating from what had once been a source of flames. At least two occupants of a Grand Prix were dead. Crashes occurred on both sides of the road. At least 18 people were hospitalized.
All six lanes of I-75 were closed most of Sunday afternoon as investigators continued. The Southbound lanes are still partially closed because the asphalt literally melted during the fire.
In January 2008, four people were killed and 38 injured in a series of similar crashes on Interstate 4 between Orlando and Tampa. One of the collisions involved 40 vehicles. Motor vehicle accidents remain the leading cause of death of people under the age of 40. One can only assume that most of these deaths are preventable.
Update 2-3-12: Among the dead were three members of the Carmo family. The lone survivor, 15-year-old Lidiane Carmo, said her father, mother, 17 year old sister and her uncle all died in the pileup. The Carmo family was on their way back home from a religious convention in Orlando when visibility was obscured by thick smoke. Eleven people died and 18 others were injured as a result of what has been called a chain reaction collision.