GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami/AP) – The death toll now stands at 11 in the deadly I-75 pileup outside Gainesville after the body of another person was found in a pickup truck days after the accident.
The Alachua County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Tuesday that a third victim was inside a Dodge pickup truck that crashed into a tractor trailer as it traveled south early Sunday, authorities said. The driver and another passenger in that vehicle had not been identified early Wednesday.
The Highway Patrol on Tuesday also released the name of an eighth person killed in the crash. Vontavia Kiara Robinson, 22, of Williston, was the driver of a Pontiac Grand Prix that was involved in the southbound crash around 4 a.m. Sunday.
The name of a passenger in Robinson’s car has not been released.
Authorities closed the busy six-lane highway just after midnight Sunday because a mix of fog and smoke from a nearby brush fire made visibility difficult. A sergeant and lieutenant determined about three hours later that conditions had improved and the interstate was reopened to traffic.
The first pileup occurred a short time later. At least a dozen cars, six tractor trailers and a motor home collided. Some cars were crushed under the bellies of big rigs. Others burst into flames, making it difficult to identify victims.
The crash sent another 18 people to the hospital.
While Florida officials said they are willing to review their protocols in determining when to shut down — and reopen — a major highway, the Highway Patrol was also quick to point out that motorists must be prepared to quickly make good decisions because road conditions can change quickly.
Officials said the decision to close a road is made by a Highway Patrol supervisor, who relies on feedback from troopers who assess road conditions. They use information and forecasts from the National Weather Service. A key piece of information is an index estimating the humidity and smoke dispersion on a scale of 1 to 10. If the score is 7 or higher, the Highway Patrol’s protocol is to close the road.
The index score for early Sunday had been forecast to be a 6 in the four-county region that includes the crash site, according to the National Weather Service.
Investigators continued piecing together details from Sunday’s crash. The remaining bodies were so badly burned that dental records and vehicle identification numbers may have to be used to get positive identifications.
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