The son of Pasco County Commissioner Ted Schrader was one of the more than 20 people who survived the deadly Sunday morning pileup on Interstate 75 that left fiery wrecks littered across the road.
Theodore "Teddy" Schrader Jr., 21, was on his way back to the University of Florida in Gainesville with three schoolmates when fog and smoke from a nearby prairie fire blanketed the interstate.
They were riding in a 2007 Infiniti G35 when they encountered a stopped semitrailer truck near Mile Marker 379. The driver, James Buford Madison Jr., 22, of Orlando, made a hard right to try to avoid the truck but clipped the corner of it, tearing a deep gash in the front driver's side, the elder Schrader said.
Madison suffered a cut on his forehead that required stitches. Teddy Schrader, Jonathan Shearer, 22, of Tallahassee, and Jacob Stern, 22, of Gainesville, suffered minor injuries.
All four were treated at Shands at the University of Florida and released. All had been wearing seat belts, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
"It's only by the grace of God that the outcome was what it was," Commissioner Schrader told the Tampa Bay Times on Tuesday.
The District 1 commissioner did not know about the collisions until several hours after.
"He was smart enough not to call me at 4 in the morning," Schrader said, adding that his son called home at 9 a.m.
"He asked, 'Have you heard about the accident?' " Schrader said. "I said, 'No.' He said, "Well, we were in it.' "
Witnesses have compared the early morning crash, which killed 10 people, to Armageddon. Several investigations have been launched to evaluate the FHP's decision to reopen the road at 3:26 a.m., about half an hour before the pileup that became one of the deadliest crashes in Florida history.
At least two dozen vehicles were involved, including at least six semitrailer trucks.
Officials were still working to identify some of the dead on Tuesday.