By Barbara Liston
ORLANDO, Fla (Reuters) - A new report on the Florida highway pileup on Sunday that killed 10 people describes a frightening scene of semi-trailer trucks driving into a cloud of smoke and fog, stopping in the road and being hit by the vehicles behind, killing some people inside.
According to a Florida Highway Patrol report released on Monday, Interstate 75 already was already littered with collisions at about 4 a.m. Sunday when two semi-trailer trucks heading south drove into the smoke and fog.
Both semis stopped, one in the center lane and the other in the outside lane. Both semis were rear-ended by vehicles which, in turn, were rear-ended by other vehicles.
Three people died, including the driver and passenger of a vehicle which hit the semi in the outside lane, and the driver of the last vehicle in the center lane pile up. In all 10 people died in the crashes and at least 18 were hospitalized.
The report said the truck trailers and the other four vehicles were consumed by fire, which also melted some of the asphalt pavement.
The highway near Gainesville was reopened on Monday, more than 30 hours after the pileup.
Prior to the crashes, authorities had closed portions of the roadway due to limited visibility, but subsequently reopened it, according to Robert Gordon, a Highway Patrol spokesman.
Authorities were investigating a marsh fire in Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park on Saturday that contributed to the smoky conditions on the highway. They are seeking to determine if it was an accidental blaze or started intentionally, said Ludie Bond of the Florida Forest Service.
At least 10 of the injured victims remained hospitalized on Monday. Six of them had been admitted to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville in critical condition.
(Editing By Ellen Wulfhorst, Paul Thomasch and Greg McCune)