Georgia family among those killed in I-75 pileup near Gainesville

4:12 PM, Jan 31, 2012   |    comments
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TAMPA, Fla. - A Georgia pastor and his wife and daughter are among the victims of Sunday's deadly pileup along Interstate 75 just south of Gainesville.

Photo Gallery: Alachua County Pileup

One survivor describes his drive in the area as going from crystal clear visibility to not being able to see anything within 50 feet.

A dangerous mixture of smoke and fog resulted in a pileup of cars and trucks, which ultimately cost the lives of 10 people. The crashes began around 4 a.m. Sunday morning near mile marker 379 on I-75 in the Paynes Prairie area.

Steven Camps survived the crash. He describes what he saw. "Imagine just kinda, like, walking and not being able to see where you're walking and you can't see anything at all, you just hear everything."

In the chilling 911 calls witnesses made to dispatchers, you can hear the crunch of metal in the background as vehicles slam into each other. For a full mile, 22 charred cars and trucks littered both sides of Interstate 75. Fire engulfed several vehicles.

The Florida Highway Patrol says in the course of the collision the vehicles caught on fire and they were burned very severely, making it tough to identify some of the victims.

When rescuers arrived, they were forced to find the injured by their screams and moans.

Among the dead was a pastor from the International Church of the Restoration. Jose Carmo, Jr., his wife, Adriana, and their oldest daughter were killed. Another daughter, 14-year-old Lidiane, is in critical condition. The family was heading home to Marietta, Georgia after a church conference in Orlando.

Federal officials are now investigating. The National Transportation Safety Board has two investigators surveying the site of the pileup. That's because Florida Highway Patrol shut down that same stretch of roadway just after midnight due to poor visibility. According to a Florida Highway Patrol report, three vehicles collided after driving through heavy smoke from a marsh fire in the same area. No one was hurt.

But at 3:30 a.m., troopers re-opened the highway and, less than 30 minutes later, the massive pileup happened.

Steven Camps says, "Besides the feeling of being blessed, it's a real sad and disgusting feeling, because a part of me feels like I should be going through what these people are going through, because I got the chance to walk away."

Governor Rick Scott is calling on the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to look into the circumstances surrounding what happened. This could also turn into a criminal investigation since it appears the fire may have been set on purpose.

Sadly, some family members don't even know their loved ones were killed because troopers say some of the victims were burned so badly that they haven't been able to identify them yet.

 More on the deadly I-75 pile-up:

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