FHP: Charges pending after massive I-75 Sarasota pileup

Last Updated: Saturday, October 06, 2012

Dozens of people were injured, but no one was killed, in a string of crashes on southbound I-75 near the Manatee-Sarasota county line on Friday afternoon, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

According to the patrol, there were 12 separate collisions involving 47 vehicles. Some 52 people were injured, and 22 of them were transported to area hospitals.

Two people were flown to area hospitals with critical, but non-life-threatening injuries.

Nearby Lakewood Ranch Medical Center admitted 13 of the victims with broken bones, friction burns from airbags and lacerations from broken glass. Most people arrived by ambulance, but some came in on their own.

None of the drivers have been identified, and there were no updates early Saturday on the condition of the injured.

Troopers said the chain-reaction of crashes began in heavy rain just after 3 p.m. and, although the weather was a contributing factor in what followed, careless driving charges are pending.

One victim described what it was like coming up on the scene.

"Just before we crashed, I said to Mary, 'we're going to crash, and there's nothing I can do,' " he said. "With that, the airbag was in my face."

Although several commercial vehicles were involved, including at least two tractor-trailers, there were no hazardous material spills, troopers said.

Post-crash, debris and glass littered the roadway and side of the road for hundreds of feet. A jackknifed tractor-trailer sandwiched a pickup truck. Smashed cars sat facing in all directions.

Southbound I-75 at University Parkway was shut down soon after the crash and didn't reopen until after 9 p.m. The highway was backed up for miles, as motorists were detoured from State Road 70 to Fruitville Road. The northbound lanes of I-75 were not affected.

The Florida Highway Patrol was assisted at the scene by law enforcement agencies and emergency crews from Manatee and Sarasota counties.  The Sarasota County Fire Department alone sent 18 units.