EAST COUNTY — Charges are pending in an interstate traffic accident that sent more than 20 people to the hospital and closed a section of I-75 for about six hours Friday, Oct. 5.
The Florida Highway Patrol is still investigating the crash, which occurred around 3:30 p.m., at the overpass for University Parkway. An FHP report states 47 vehicles were involved in 12 separate collisions, during which 52 people suffered injuries.
Of those injured, 22 were transported to local hospitals. Two were flown to area hospitals with critical, but non-life threatening, injuries.
The Sarasota County Fire Department had 18 units on scene at the accident. Manatee County emergency services also provided assistance, sending two fire engines and six ambulances to the scene. Twenty-five units from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office also responded.
“There were several commercial motor vehicles involved, but no hazmat spills,” the FHP report states. “Afternoon storms did contribute to the crashes, however, charges are pending.”
Southbound traffic on I-75 was detoured at State Road 70. The closed portion of I-75 re-opened at 9:09 p.m. the night of the crash.
Florida Highway Patrol Public Information Officer Lt. Chris Miller said the accident, as of press time Tuesday, was still under investigation, and the FHP was compiling and reviewing reports before filing any charges. The weather and driver error were factors in the original crash, he said.
“There were 47 damaged vehicles, and the damage ranged anywhere from minor fender damage to totaled vehicles,” Miller said. “I’ve never seen anything like this (crash) in my entire career.”
Miller said a semi-truck that jack-knifed was not the cause of the original crash.
In the East County, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center took in 13 patients by ambulance, one of which underwent surgery for a laceration.
Patient injuries, overall, ranged from bone fractures and broken bones to lacerations from glass and burns from airbags, hospital spokesperson Jennifer Bryan said. All patients at Lakewood have been released.
Hospital CEO Jim Wilson said the medical center called in additional doctors after initial accident counts began escalating. EMS initially reported to the hospital five vehicles were involved in the crash. The number later jumped to 27, and television crews soon reported close to 50.
“As the severity of the accident grew, we had to change our response plans,” Wilson said. “I could not have foreseen it going any better. It’s amazing to watch everybody in action and how well every department participated.
“The irony is we have several practice drills and we always use the stage as being a large accident at the corner of I-75 and University,” he said, noting the drill was just a few months ago.
Wilson noted several accident patients came in to the hospital on their own over the weekend for medical attention; 30 people were seen by EMS at the scene of the accident, but were not transported to the hospital.
Miller said drivers should be extra cautious during rain or fog events and should operate their vehicles accordingly, by reducing their speed and taking other precautions.
Contact Pam Eubanks at email@example.com.
By the numbers
2 — Number of accident patients transported to hospitals via helicopter
13 — Number of patients taken to Lakewood Ranch Medical Center by EMS
22 — Number of people transported to local hospitals because of the crash
47 — Number of vehicles involved in the crash
52 — Number of people reported injured because of the crash