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Highway pile-up kills at least 10

2012-01-30 07:42

DESTRUCTION: At least 10 people were killed and 18 injured in a Florida highway pileup that stretched two kilometres.

GAINSVILLE, Florida - A long line of cars and trucks collided one after another early Sunday on a dark Florida highway so shrouded in haze and smoke that drivers were instantly blinded. At least 10 people were killed.


When rescuers arrived they could only listen for screams and moans because visibility was too bad for visual contact. Victims were trapped in wreckage that was strewn for nearly two kilometres.

Authorities were still trying to determine what caused the pile-up south of Gainesville on Interstate 75which had been closed for a time before the accidents because of the mixture of fog and heavy smoke from a brush fire that may have been intentionally set.

At least a dozen cars and six articulated trucks were involved and some burst into flames.


Steven Camps of Gainesville said he and some friends were driving home several hours before dawn when they were drawn into the pile-up.

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

Photographs of the scene taken hours later revealed an aftermath that resembled a Hollywood disaster movie. Twisted, burned-out vehicles were scattered across the road, 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 Pontiac Grand Prix. One artic was burned down to its skeleton, charred pages of books and magazines in its cargo area. And the tyres 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 warned Camps to be careful as he approached the Paynes Prairie area just south of Gainesville.

A short time later, Camps said, traffic stopped on the northbound lanes. He was talking about the road conditions to a man in the stationary car next to him when it was hit and crushed under forward into a stationary truck. Camps car was hit twice but he and a friend were able to jump out. They fled to the road shoulder to watch cars and trucks burn and explode.

Police said on car had four dead inside it and "a tour bus" was involved. At least 18 people are in hospital.

All six lanes of the interstate - which runs virtually the entire length of Florida - were closed most of Sunday afternoon as investigators surveyed the site and fire crews put out the last of the flames.

It was not clear when the highway would fully reopen because part of the road melted, police said.

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