VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Three people were killed and several others were injured early Thursday in a massive, fiery pileup on Interstate 95 in Volusia County, the Florida Highway Patrol said.
Troopers said 17 vehicles, including several tractor-trailers, were involved in five crashes around 1:30 a.m. on both sides of the highway near the State Road 442 exit in Edgewater, south of Daytona Beach.
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The FHP said four wrecks involving 11 vehicles happened on I-95 north, killing a 25-year-old woman.
Two people died in a six-vehicle pileup on I-95 south, including a Hialeah man, 51, and a Titusville man, 54, the FHP said. The crash involved four semis, a van and an SUV, according to troopers, who added that the drivers of one of the big rigs and the SUV died in the crash.
One child was airlifted to Arnold Palmer Hospital in Orlando, and three victims were taken to Halifax Health, according to the FHP. The child is in stable condition, troopers said.
Troopers said at least two tractor-trailers burst into flames during the crashes.
According to FHP spokeswoman Kim Montes, drivers said visibility suddenly dropped to zero in the area and some of them stopped on the shoulder of the interstate while others stopped on the roadway.
“Miraculously, when you look at some of these cars in the northbound lanes, there are people that survived that don’t know how that happened,” she said.
News 6 meteorologist Jonathan Kegges said fog, smoke and temperature inversion, a weather event known as “super fog,” likely caused the conditions.
The National Weather Service later tweeted, “Unfortunately, super fog contributed to the incident on I-95 in Volusia County early this AM. With super fog, visibility is lowered to <10ft. It has caused several large pileups, namely on I-4 near Davenport (2008) & on I-75 S of Gainesville (2012). Our thoughts are with the victims.”
Unfortunately, super fog contributed to the incident on I-95 in Volusia Co early this AM. With super fog, visibility is lowered to <10ft. It has caused several large pileups, namely on I-4 near Davenport (2008) & on I-75 S of Gainesville (2012). Our thoughts are with the victims. pic.twitter.com/NLHouCt1hc— NWS Melbourne (@NWSMelbourne) March 3, 2022
Investigators said they’re also looking into driver responsibility in this crash.
A spokesperson for the Florida Forest Service told News 6 they authorized the burn that took place sometime Wednesday by a private entity and said they communicated with FHP and right now are in communication with their Tallahassee office and working with FHP regarding the matter.
Montes said FHP received the burn notice via email, sent out by Forest Service officials 15 minutes prior to starting the burn. But she added an email notice is not the proper communication method to notify troopers of any potential danger near a highway. She said they’re supposed to call since their agency gets several burn notices a day.
“We’re going to go back and make sure and check to see. We always had a good partnership with the department of forestry, so we’re looking into that right now,” said Lt. Montes.
Forest Service officials said the 161-acre prescribed burn began around 10:15 a.m. and ended around 2 p.m. They added that “forecasted transport wind direction for the day was north at 10 mph and during the day and northeast to east at 2-3 mph,” which led to smoke columns being carried in a south, southwest and westerly directions away from I-95.
The report said fog and smoke signs were posted in the area of the crash, 1.25 miles southwest of the intersection of I-95 and SR-442 in Volusia County.
The Florida Forest Service said they’re working to see the role the weather and fuel amounts played on Wednesday’s authorized burn.
Thursday’s massive crash comes after a similar crash back in 2008 that killed five people after a 70-car pileup on I-4 in Polk County. The interstate was shut down for days.
All northbound and southbound lanes are closed in the area and are not expected to reopen until sometime Thursday evening, according to FDOT.
FHP said southbound I-95 could potentially reopen around 7 p.m. Thursday; however, FDOT said reopening could take much longer.
In an update at 10 a.m., troopers said the southbound entrance ramp from S.R. 442 to southbound I-95 was reopened.
Northbound traffic is being re-routed at C.R.-5A (MM 231). Drivers can re-enter northbound I-95 at S.R. 442.
Southbound I-95 is being re-routed at S.R. 44 (MM 249). Drivers can re-enter southbound at S.R. 442.
Troopers said northbound lanes were damaged by fire and will need to be re-paved before they are reopened.
U.S. 1 can be used as an alternate route.
Stay with News 6 and ClickOrlando.com for updates on this developing story.
*** MAJOR TRAFFIC ALERT - SHUTDOWN ***— “Trooper Steve” Montiero (@TrooperSteve_) March 3, 2022
Multiple vehicles/Multiple fatalities - #Brevard/#Volusia
- NB I-95 shutdown at 231MM (SR-5a Mims)
- SB I-95 shutdown at SR-44 (Volusia)
- THIS WILL BE CLOSED FOR HOURS POSSIBLY INTO THE AFTERNOON pic.twitter.com/rJzw50icdb