POLK COUNTY — A man was killed and another person critically injured in a series of crashes involving nine vehicles early Tuesday on U.S. 27 near Lake Wales, according to Polk County Sheriff's Office reports.
The crashes happened shortly before 5 a.m. in low visibility possibly due to fog and smoke from a nearby controlled burn, according to the Sheriff's Office.
Remnant smoke from a burn of 60 acres about 1.5 miles away on Monday and dense fog was reported in the area of the crashes around 4:53 a.m., Sheriff Grady Judd told Bay News 9.
Around 4:55 a.m. the Sheriff's Office got a call about a crash on U.S. 27, just south of Warner University.
Deputies found three separate crashes involving nine vehicles in the north and south lanes.
In the limited visibility, a semitrailer truck traveling carrying cheese south on U.S. 27 crossed the median into the opposite lane and struck a silver Ford Expedition and a motorcycle.
The motorcyclist, Frederick Wood, 47 of Frostproof died at the scene. He was not wearing a helmet.
The driver of the Expedition, Kevin Erb, 52, of Avon Park, was taken to a local hospital in critical condition.
Four vehicles, including a white Chrysler minivan, a sliver Toyota RAV-4, a burgundy Dodge Charger and a white Ford pickup truck, were all involved in a second crash in the northbound lane just south of the semi crash. All of the people in these vehicles were hospitalized, but no one was seriously injured.
Two more vehicles — a green Mitsubishi and a burgundy Ford Taurus — were involved in a third crash in the southbound lanes. Nobody was injured.
U.S. 27 was closed in both directions for several hours in the crash.