Death toll in Florida pileups rises to 11

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 01, 2012 8:48 AM
Death toll in Florida pileups rises to 11

(Reuters) - The death toll in Sunday's devastating highway pileups in northern Florida has risen to 11 after authorities discovered another body in a pickup truck initially believed to have contained just two crash victims, police said Wednesday.

The remains were found in a Dodge pickup by the Alachua County Medical Examiner's Office, according to a statement from the Florida Highway Patrol.

None of the three victims in that vehicle has been identified, police said.

Before the medical examiner's discovery, officials said 10 people died in the series of accidents that occurred early Sunday morning in near-zero visibility conditions on Interstate 75 south of Gainesville. The accidents began occurring about 30 minutes after a 14-mile stretch of Interstate 75 south of Gainesville was reopened.

Visibility had been a problem Saturday night due to a combination of fog and smoke from a suspicious marsh fire that enveloped the highway. The Florida Forest Service said the fire was set on Saturday in Paynes Prairie either intentionally or accidentally.

The Florida Highway Patrol has come under criticism for reopening the highway after a supervisor determined "it was clear." Florida Governor Rick Scott has ordered a formal investigation.

The discovery of the third person in the Dodge truck brings to four the number of people who died but who have not yet been identified because their bodies and vehicles were consumed by fire. They were killed in a 6-vehicle pileup in the southbound lanes that also involved two semi-trailer trucks.

A separate 10-vehicle pileup in the northbound lanes killed seven people, according to an accident report released Tuesday. Among the dead were 4 people from one extended family: a pastor from Kennesaw, Georgia; his wife; his 17-year-old daughter and his brother. The pastor's surviving daughter, 15-year-old Lidiane Carmo, was taken to Shands Hospital in Gainesville.

(Writing by Dan Burns; Editing by Vicki Allen)