The Florida Highway Patrol has closed parts of Interstate 75 and U.S. 441 this morning because of low visibility in the same area where 10 people died in a multiple-vehicle crash early Sunday. Drivers are encouraged to call 511 for highway information.
In addition to the 10 fatalities on Sunday at least 18 others were transported to Shands Hospital in Gainesville and other surrounding hospitals. The Florida Highway Patrol reports at least 12 passenger cars and approximately 7 semi-trucks were involved. Alachua County Sheriff’s deputies and highway patrol officials say the dense smoke from a brush fire on Paynes Prairie Saturday night was a factor in the pileup. Shands Hospital Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Timothy Flynn, held a press conference at the Shands Cancer Hospital at 1:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon and described the situation at the hospital following the early morning pileup:
Parts of I-75 remained closed for hours on Sunday because of the damage to the roadway. Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell says the crashes and resulting vehicle fires damaged the southbound lanes.
Law enforcement will continue to monitor the smoke situation on highways as forestry and fire crews continue to try to put out the smoldering fire on the prairie.
The highway patrol is continuing its investigation into the accidents and the decision to first close and then reopen the roadways early Sunday morning before the accidents occurred. The names of the victims have yet to be released.
(Morning helicopter video from Sunday courtesy Orlando NBC affiliate WESH)