This image taken from a Florida 511 traffic camera and provided by the Alachua County Fire Rescue, shows a fiery crash along Interstate 75, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (Alachua County Fire Rescue/Florida 511 via AP)

UPDATE: 5 children among 7 dead in Florida highway crash

Vinnie DeVita said he was driving south at the time and narrowly escaped the crash — he saw it happen in the rearview mirror

Two big rigs and two passenger vehicles collided and spilled diesel fuel across a Florida highway Thursday, sparking a massive fire that killed seven people and injured at least eight others, authorities said.

The wreck happened on southbound Interstate 75 1.6 kilometres south of Alachua, near Gainesville. The flames were fed by about 189 litres of diesel, authorities said.

Authorities initially said six had died but late Thursday night revealed a seventh victim had perished. At least eight others were hospitalized, some with critical injuries, the Gainesville Sun reported. FHP Lt. Patrick Riordan said early Thursday evening that five of the accident victims who died were in a passenger van, and another person who died was in one of the tractor-trailers.

Vinnie DeVita said he was driving south at the time and narrowly escaped the crash — he said it saw it happen in the rearview mirror, immediately behind him, according to a report by WKMG .

“If I had stepped on the brake when I heard the noise, undoubtedly, I would have been in that accident,” DeVita said. “And then within probably 15 to 20 seconds of it all, it exploded. I mean, just a ball of flames.”

Emergency crews extinguished the fire and authorities said they were treating the crash as a homicide investigation, but didn’t say why. The fire was so intense that authorities said it damaged parts of the road.

The aftermath closed part of the highway in both directions, causing massive delays. Authorities opened the northbound lanes around 8 p.m. but southbound lanes remained closed Friday morning. Debris including personal property and vehicle parts was scattered across the road, the Florida Highway Patrol said. A helicopter helped search for any victims who may have been in nearby woods.

It was the worst accident on I-75 in Alachua county since January 2012, when 11 people died in a chain reaction crash attributed to heavy fog and smoke on the roadway, which crosses Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Officials were criticized then for not closing the road due to worsening conditions, and later installed cameras, sensors and large electronic signs to help prevent similar crashes.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Necropsy for Port Edward wolf is inconclusive

Samples sent for forensic analysis; wolf sightings continue

Seafest parade sails on June 27

Tides are turning during COVID-19 for Prince Rupert parade

Prince Rupert school district fires superintendent

Dr. Irene LaPierre removed from position immediately.

B.C. government eyes antlerless moose harvest increase in bid to save caribou

Antlerless moose hunts reduce predation for threatened mountain caribou, says ministry

Wolf killed in Port Edward

Samples to be sent to lab. for testing

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Federal aid for care home systems needed ahead of second wave, advocates say

Ontario Long Term Care Association calling for more action

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

B.C. woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Horgan calls for national anti-racism program; will pitch idea to PM, premiers

Premier John Horgan said he’s horrified by the death of George Floyd in the United States

Chilliwack dad rescues two young daughters after truck plunges into lake

“I used every single one of my angels that day,” said Dennis Saulnier

Most Read