State authorities closed a section of Interstate 75 in the middle of the night on Saturday due to poor visibility brought on by fog and smoke. Just minutes after officials reopened that area, 12 or more vehicles were involved in a deadly collision that left 10 people dead and several others injured. Exactly which officials decided to reopen the road is unclear, as is what evidence they had that the conditions were safe. The Florida Highway Patrol has refused to comment and the situation is drawing the attention of federal authorities.
The deadly collision involved multiple semi trucks, SUVs, cars and a motor home. The National Transportation Safety Board sent personnel to look into whether they need to launch a formal investigation into what happened. The NTSB would primarily be interested in determining what went wrong in order to improve safety going forward. The people who were injured and the families of those who lost their lives will want to know who is responsible for this terrible tragedy.
The accident spread for almost a full mile and encompassed both sides of the highway. Rescue efforts were hampered by the continued poor visibility, as the fog was still present and the burning wreckage added more smoke to the scene. The brush fire that initially caused smoke in the area covered 62 acres and continued to burn long after the highway collisions had stopped.
Fatal car accidents are always a terrible tragedy. When careless or negligent driving leads to a wreck, the responsible party should be held accountable for the harm they have done. In this case, it appears that the road was unsafe for any driver. The officials who decided to open this road after declaring it unsafe acted without proper care for the people out that night. Those officials will need to explain why they made a decision that left 10 people dead.
Source: Times Union, “Questions remain in deadly Florida highway crash,” by Mike Schneider, 30 January 2012