Thursday, January 18, 2018
Public safety

Up to 50 vehicles involved in I-75 crash at Manatee-Sarasota county line

SARASOTA — Dozens of people were injured in a massive pileup on southbound Interstate 75 Friday afternoon that involved about 50 vehicles.

Cars and trucks started crashing just after 3 p.m. at the Manatee-Sarasota county line as a strong storm slicked the roadway and obscured visibility.

Amazingly, Florida Highway Patrol troopers said, no one was killed.

About 50 people were injured in all, some of whom were taken to local hospitals. Others were treated at the scene.

A handful of people were transported by helicopter to hospitals as trauma patients, but officials said they were expected to survive.

All southbound lanes were closed for six hours, which backed traffic up for miles.

Troopers reopened the road just after 9 p.m.

David Wagle, 57, was driving home from his job at Tampa International Airport when he saw a semitrailer truck jackknife. Then he started hearing bangs.

"For a minute, nonstop, you could hear crash after crash," Wagle told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Wagle's white Ford truck went into the ditch, just missing a row of trees.

"My truck doesn't have a scratch," he said. "Every car literally around is smashed."

Julio Olmedo, 57, was driving a white van when he began hearing crashes in front of him and behind him. His van was then rear-ended by a red truck.

"It was confusing, a lot of cars, a lot of rain," Olmedo told the newspaper.

The pileup was reminiscent of other Florida crashes that caused multiple deaths.

In January, 11 people were killed on Interstate 75 near Gainesville after a series of crashes that occurred after troopers reopened the highway after it had been closed because of fog and wildfire smoke.

In January 2008, five people were killed, including two from Tampa, in a 70-vehicle pileup on Interstate 4 in Polk County. That string of wrecks also injured 38 people and occurred in heavy fog and smoke.

Information from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the Associated Press and Bay News 9 supplemented this report.

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