The Florida Department of Law Enforcement today released its report on the deadly January accidents on I-75 in Alachua County.
The FDLE found no criminal intent in decisions made by the Florida Highway Patrol or other government agencies. At the time of the accidents, there was dense fog on the road and smoke from controlled burns at nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. And the wrecks happened in north and southbound lanes on a low-lying stretch of I-75. Eleven people died and nearly two dozen were hurt.
The FDLE report says the FHP dealt with a similar situation in 2008 when smoke and fog lead to a 70-car pile-up on Interstate 4 in Auburdale. Five people died in those crashes and dozens were hurt. But the FDLE found troopers never established or implemented effective guidelines for troopers dealing with traffic problems caused by limited road visibility.
The report also says troopers failed to share critical information with each other on the day of the deadly January accidents.
One trooper reported dense smoke on U.S. 441 Paynes Prairie about 20 minutes before the fatal crashes. But the FHP wasn't actively monitoring conditions on I-75 through the stretch where the accidents occurred.
The FDLE is making several recommendations, including a clear chain of command for responsibility over whether to open or close roads. And that the FHP have direct access to information about all wildfires and prescribed burns in the state each day. It also calls for an evaluation of the public road signage to give proper warning to travelers about road conditions which may affect their ability to see where they're going.