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Here’s how the crash happened. At 10 am on January 8, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission lit a controlled burn. In the dry conditions of the day, the fire got out of control, and though firefighters were called to the scene and fought courageously, one of them suffering second-degree burns to his arms and face, the blaze has engulfed over 500 acres by that night. At this point, the Florida Highway Patrol is notified of the smoke danger, and promises to close the road if necessary. Although by 2 am visibility drops to only a quarter-mile and stays there until after 8 am, the FHP only puts out smoke warning signs. In the county, there were only two deputies able to respond to crashes and monitor the fog conditions, and both were called to crashes, unable to make the decision to close the road. The first crash occurs at 4:30 am, and the first police officer on the scene at 4:54 am is caught in the accident as it unfolds. By 5:07, state troopers close the highway, but by then there were over 10 pileups involving 70 vehicles, with five fatalities and nearly 40 injuries, not to mention the extensive damage to property.
Questions remain about how the fire was allowed to rage so much out of control, and why the decision to close the road was left as a secondary concern to two deputies with many other pressing issues to attend. The leading edge of the crash is suspiciously thick with semi trucks that were either the cause of the crash or plowed through other vehicles in the wreck, leading one to wonder whether the accident might have been avoided if truckers had responded to the condition appropriately. If you or a loved one were involved in this or any other automobile accident, call the experienced auto accident attorneys at CGWC for a free consultation.