Brush fire, fog cause deadly pileup in Florida

  1. Brush fire, fog cause deadly pileup in Florida
    At least 3 people killed along Interstate 4
    updated 8:27 a.m. MT, Wed., Jan. 9, 2008

    LAKELAND, Fla. - About 50 cars crashed on a highway blanketed by fog and smoke from a brush fire in central Florida on Wednesday, and local officials said at least three people were killed.
    A stretch of nearly 15 miles of Interstate 4 between Tampa and Orlando was closed by several accidents, including the 50-car pileup. Aerial footage showed the soupy mix of fog and smoke covering the landscape for miles and giving the sky an eerie golden color.
    Polk County officials said numerous tractor trailers overturned on the roadway, including a tanker.
    The poor visibility hampered rescue efforts, forcing officials to walk along the closed stretch of I-4 checking individual vehicles for injuries, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Larry Coggins said.
    Polk County officials gave the figure of three dead, but Coggins said the poor conditions prevented him from confirming that.
    "No one has been able to see this thing in its entirety yet," Coggins said.
    Robert Ellison said he was heading east on the highway about 6 a.m. when he narrowly avoided a collision.
    "Everything came to a halt," Ellison told The Tampa Tribune and WFLA-TV. "You can't see your hand in front of your face."
    Firefighters on Tuesday had battled a controlled burn that got out of control and charred 250 acres, producing smoke that combined with the fog to cut visibility Wednesday morning.
  2. Later reports claim there were 70 cars involved and at least 4 people have died.