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Out-of-control semi causes fatal Fla. crash

The traffic death was the second fatality on I-75 in Marion County in less than 12 hours


By Austin L. Miller
Ocala Star-Banner

OCALA, Fla. — A nine-vehicle accident on Interstate 75 south of Ocala left one person dead and several people injured.

The pileup -- which authorities said involved four semis -- spilled hundreds of gallons of fuel on the roadway and blocked traffic for hours early Saturday morning. As of 7 a.m., the southbound lanes were still blocked.

The traffic death was the second fatality on I-75 in Marion County in less than 12 hours. It was one of four in the county since shortly after 5:30 a.m. Friday. All are being investigated by the Florida Highway Patrol.

Early Saturday morning, troopers said southbound traffic had stopped at Mile Marker 338, near the weigh station, because of a crash ahead. As vehicles waited for that accident to be cleared, a semi failed to stop, drove off the roadway and hit a guardrail. The big rig then sideswiped a minivan and FedEx truck and struck several other vehicles before finally stopping.

At least one vehicle was turned on its side and another was severely damaged.

Officials said one person, a male, was pronounced dead at the scene. Ten people were taken to hospitals.

Troopers said they were dispatched at 12:19 a.m. and arrived at 12:54 a.m.

Charles Drake, the driver of the minivan, said he was stopped when he saw a semi in his rear view mirror fish-tailing toward him. He said the truck hit the driver's side, bounced off and slammed into the back of the FedEx truck.

He said it tipped over one vehicle and hit few others and then stopped.

The Land-o-Lakes man said he had been visiting family and friends in Ohio and was on his way home.

Julio Onate, the FedEx driver, said he heard a loud bang and then saw a semi hit the front of his truck. Onate, who was on his way to Orlando, said the semi driver that barreled into the other vehicles was taken to the hospital.

Gustavo Mozo, driver of the lead vehicle, a semi, described the crash as a chain-reaction. From his rear view mirror, he saw the semi hitting multiple vehicles. Mozo said he was coming from California and was on his way to Miami hauling mixed vegetables.

Marion County Fire Rescue officials on scene said roughly 450 gallons of fuel from the vehicles was spilled on the roadway.

It had been a rough 24 hours for troopers, who began their day on Friday with a hit-and-run crash that killed a woman. They were still investigating that crash when a semi veered off the roadway near Micanopy and plowed into the back of an RV and a vehicle hauling a trailer during lunch time.

The metal band Adrenaline Mob and others had pulled over before their vehicles were hit. One man was killed and six others were injured.

Then, as troopers were busy on I-75 shortly after midnight Saturday, there was another wreck on U.S. 441 that claimed the life of another person. That crash occurred at U.S. 441 and Northwest 90th Street. Officials said they were dispatched at 11:55 p.m. Friday and arrived at 12:11 a.m. Saturday.

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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