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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott orders FDLE investigation into fatal I-75 crashes

30

January

Gov. Rick Scott ordered the state's law enforcement agency to investigate what led up to a series of vehicle crashes that killed 10 people on I-75 near Gainesville on Sunday.

The order came Monday as questions surround the Florida Highway Patrol's decision to close and then reopen the stretch of road early Sunday amid heavy smoke from a wildfire, which FHP has said may have been intentionally set. The combination of smoke and fog reduced visibility to zero, which led to fiery crashes involving at least a dozen cars and six semitrailer trucks.

"I have asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the circumstances leading up to this incident," Scott said in a statement. "I will make available any and all resources from the Executive Office of the Governor, as well as any agency under my supervision, as needed. We will also fully cooperate with any federal investigation which may occur. During this tragic time, our thoughts and prayers should be with the victims and their families."

FHP officials on Monday defended the call to reopen the highway at 3:30 a.m., about 15 minutes before the first pileups began, the AP reported. They said visibility had cleared when the decision was made, though it quickly deteriorated.

The National Transportation Safety Board has also sent investigators to the crash site in Paynes Prairie, the natural preserve through which I-75 runs.

[Last modified: Monday, January 30, 2012 6:44pm]

    

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