‘It Looked Like the End of the World’: Florida Highway Collision Leaves 10 Dead

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Matt Stamey / Gainesville Sun / AP

Officials work at the scene of a multi-vehicle wreck on Interstate 75 at Paynes Prairie on Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012, south of Gainesville, Fla.

A gruesome traffic collision in northern Florida killed 10 people and sent at least 21 victims to the hospital, leaving behind a mile of warped vehicles and charred debris, the Gainesville Sun reports.

Early Sunday, heavy smoke blanketed Interstate 75 near Gainesville, blinding drivers and causing a grisly scene. Authorities said they believe a nearby brush fire, one that could have been intentionally set, was the cause of the fog.

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Florida Highway Patrol officers first spotted the blaze and closed the highway for a period of time before the first crash, but reopened it when visibility conditions improved. The fire burned about 60 acres but was contained on Sunday.

According to the Associated Press, emergency responders could only rescue trapped victims by listening for screams amid the smoky wreckage. As troopers searched for survivors, new crashes occurred, Sheriff’s Sgt. Todd Kelly told the Sun. “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,” he said.

“You could hear cars hitting each other. People were crying. People were screaming. It was crazy,” Gainesville resident Steven R. Camps told the AP. “If I could give you an idea of what it looked like, I would say it looked like the end of the world.”

Camps and a few friends were among those in the accident, but were able to escape and take cover in nearby grass on the shoulder of the road. Describing the fires and explosions on both sides of the interstate, Camps explained the pileup “looked like someone was picking up cars and throwing them.”

Officials closed the interstate in both directions Sunday, but reopened southbound lanes by 11 p.m.

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