TAMPA, Fla. - A chain-reaction caused a fiery crash on Interstate 75, according to investigators. Those flames consumed two vehicles, and took the lives of the two drivers.
The impacts of Wednesday’s deadly crash continued into the overnight hours. Northbound lanes of I-75 remained closed for most of the morning, but all lanes reopened before noon Thursday.
The crash occurred before 7 p.m. near mile marker 272, north of Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, just before the Interstate 275 interchange. Traffic came to a complete standstill as flames shot into the air Wednesday evening, trapping several drivers between Bruce B. Downs and State Road 56 for hours.
Crews continue to clean up the northbound lanes of I-75 following Wednesday's deadly crash. (FOX 13 News)
Firefighters from both Tampa and Pasco County fought the flames for an hour after a semi-truck broke out in flames. Officials said one issue that caused problems for firefighters was the cargo that was being hauled by one of the semis: waxy milk cartons that kept reigniting.
Eight cars were involved in the pile-up, including two tractor-trailers. One person inside one of those tractor-trailers was killed, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The driver of a Mercedes sedan also passed away at the scene.
The tractor-trailer that caught fire was towed away Thursday morning. (FOX 13 News)
Six other people injured in the crash were taken to a hospital:
- A 35-year-old Wesley Chapel woman was the driver of a 2014 Chevy Equinox. She had serious injuries and was taken to Tampa General Hospital.
- An unidentified driver of a 2015 BMW sedan was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital with minor injuries.
- A 28-year-old Land O' Lakes man was the driver of a 2013 Buick Verano. He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital with minor injuries.
- A 57-year-old Tampa man was the driver of a 2008 Ford van. He was taken to Advent Health with minor injuries.
- A 36-year-old Lakeland man was the driver of a second tractor-trailer. He had minor injuries and was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital.
- A 37-year-old Land O' Lakes man was the driver of a 2015 Mazda 6. He had no injuries.
According to FHP's preliminary investigation, the following events led up to the crash:
The driver of the Mazda 6 stopped for traffic in the outside northbound lane. The six vehicles behind him slowed down, but the driver of a tractor-trailer did not.
The driver of the tractor-trailer rear-ended the Chevy Equinox -- driven by the Wesley Chapel woman -- which caused a domino effect. Her vehicle collided with the vehicle in front of her, a Buick Verano, which collided with the vehicle in front that, a BMW sedan, driven by the unidentified person.
The tractor-trailer that caused the crash continued forward and crashed into a Mercedes sedan and the second tractor-trailer -- which was stopped behind the Mazda 6. The result trapped the Mercedes sedan between both tractor-trailers. The tractor-trailer that caused the initial crash "overrode," landed on top of the Mercedes sedan and collided into a pillar for an overhead roadway sign on the outside shoulder. That tractor-trailer and Mercedes broke out in flames. Both drivers died at the crash scene and have not been identified.
Meanwhile, the second tractor-trailer continued northbound and collided into the back of the Mazda 6.
Officials at the scene Wednesday said the collision could have been a lot worse.
“There were parts all over the road,” explained Pasco County Fire Rescue spokesperson, Corey Dierdorff. “There’s going to be extensive cleanup. The cars were very, very heavily damaged, so we’re very thankful that the injuries weren’t worse than what they were.”
Several drivers told FOX 13 they were cut off from the nearest exit by the crash, and had issues with nearly running out of gas. Eventually, those cars were turned around by officials who turned the highway’s on-ramp into an exit route.