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article image10 people die in horrific Florida highway car crashes

By JohnThomas Didymus     Jan 30, 2012 in World
At least 10 people died in a horrific string of car crashes caused by smoke from a fire that affected visibility along the Interstate 75 in north Florida. Nine people died on the scene, one died later, and a hospital is treating 20 people for injuries.
MSNBC reports the accident happened around 3:45 a.m. Sunday, on both sides of the I-75 south of Gainesville, Florida. Both lanes of the interstate highway were closed to traffic after rescue workers and investigators arrived at the scene. According to Fox News, traffic was diverted to U.S. 301 and State Road 27.
Reuters reports at least 12 cars and six or seven trucks were involved in the pile-up. Eyewitness accounts say one tractor-trailer carrying books and magazines was burned completely. Human bodies were seen in a burned Grand Prix .
The Gainesville Sun described the scene as resembling images of roadside bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan with burned-out shells of trucks, cars and rubber tires burned away to reveal charred rims on melted asphalt.
Police say the wreckage of the accident was strewn an area nearly a mile long. Reuters reports that Alison Wilson, hospital spokeswoman, said 18 injured people were taken to Shands Hospital emergency room, six of them to a trauma center for people in critical condition.
Fox News reports that Steven Camps, 23, said a friend driving ahead of him on the highway called to warn of conditions ahead. Camps said that at the Prairie area just south of Gainesville, traffic stopped on the northbound lanes because of smoke coming from a fire along the highway. He said: "You couldn't see anything. People were pulling off the road."
Camps stopped his car and was talking to man in a car that stopped next to him when another car ran into the man's car from behind. The car was crushed under a truck in front. Camps said another car hit his car from behind. He and a friend who was riding with him jumped out of the car and took cover at the roadside while other cars began hitting their car from behind.
Camps said: "You could hear cars hitting each other. People were crying. People were screaming. It was crazy. If I could give you an idea of what it looked like, I would say it looked like the end of world."
Camps continued: "It was happening on both sides of the road, so there was nowhere to go. It blew my mind. It was like a war zone. It literally looked like someone was picking up cars and throwing them."
Another driver at the scene of the accident, Donna Henry, who was also driving with a friend said: "We just hit it, and you couldn't see anything...Like 15 times somebody hit, from this side and that, north and south. It was bad."
According to MSNBC, along the pile-up, a pickup truck ended right on top of a passenger car, and both against the rear end of a FedEx tractor-trailer.
Florida Highway Patrol had briefly closed the highway earlier after heavy fog and smoke from a man-made marsh fire in the Paynes Prairie obscured visibility. According to Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan, "When the visibility cleared, we reopened the road."
A spokeswoman for the Florida Forest Service said the fire began on Saturday and it was uncertain whether it started accidentally or was intentionally set.
The Gainesville Sun reports Sgt. Todd Kelly, Alachua County Sheriff, said: "That's a very scary thing when you can't see anything and hear the squealing of tires and don't know if 2,000 pounds of metal is coming at you."
Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Patrick Riordan, said: "It's tragic. It's probably the worst one (accident) I've seen in 27 years."
MSNBC reports that heavy fog and smoke caused a similar deadly pile-up in January 2008 when four people died and 38 were injured in crashes on Interstate 4 between Orlando and Tampa.
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