DADE CITY — Truck driver Dexter Youngblood was making a familiar trip to Largo to deliver a load of medical equipment Tuesday morning.
It was just after 5 a.m. and the road was still dark. He stopped when a semitrailer truck ahead of him halted.
That's when another truck's headlights caught his eye in the rearview mirror. It was barreling down on him.
"I'm dead," Youngblood thought to himself. "I knew it was over."
The truck crashed into the back of Youngblood's box truck. He was stopped short by a guardrail in the median.
"Thank God the guardrail brought me to a stop," he said.
The collision was among two crashes Tuesday morning that shut the southbound lanes of Interstate 75 for about four hours. By 9 a.m., the road had reopened. The roadway was closed from north of Blanton Road, near the Hernando County line, to State Road 50, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
According to spokesman Sgt. Steve Gaskins, an unloaded gasoline tanker, driven by Charles A. Roth, 40, heading south slowed in the outside lane due to a partial roadblock caused by a previous crash. As Roth stopped, a truck behind his, driven by Christopher A. Kemp, 28, failed to brake and slammed into the tanker.
The impact propelled Kemp's truck into the inside lane, striking Youngblood's box truck, which then slammed into another semitrailer truck, troopers said.
None of the trucks' loads spilled during the crashes.
Kemp, of Florence, Ala., was flown to Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point with serious injuries. Tuesday afternoon, he was listed in critical condition.
At the scene Tuesday morning, Youngblood, 50, of Atlanta, was banged up, but unhurt. The cab of the semi that hit him was demolished, left in shards scattered over the roadway.
Southbound traffic was backed up for several miles Tuesday morning. During the cleanup, oncoming traffic was being diverted onto State Road 50 at Exit 301.