Authorities in Florida are trying to determine what caused a horrific highway pileup where vehicles collided one after another on a dark highway so shrouded in haze and smoke that drivers were blinded. At least 10 were killed in the early Sunday pileup, and another 18 were hospitalized.
All lanes of Interstate 75 reopened late Sunday, but authorities closed the highway again early Monday due to poor visibility caused by fog and smoke.
“You could hear cars hitting each other. People were crying. People were screaming. It was crazy,” Steven R. Camps said. “If I could give you an idea of what it looked like, I would say it looked like the end of the world.”
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 (1.6 kilometers).
At least a dozen cars and six tractor-trailer trucks 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.
Reporters who were allowed to view the site saw bodies still inside a burned-out sports car. One tractor-trailer was burned down to its skeleton.
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. 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.
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. Lt. Patrick Riordan, a Florida Highway Patrol spokesman, said he was not sure how much time passed between the reopening of the highway and the first crash.
Investigators were trying to determine whether the blaze causing the smoke had been intentionally set. She said there were no controlled burns in the area and no lightning.
Associated Press writer Freida Frisaro in Miami contributed to this report.
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