7 fatalities in 5-vehicle Fla. crash – but cause a mystery
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has been able to re-construct the series of events involved in a January 3, 2019 multi-vehicle crash in Florida, although what set the tragedy in motion remains under investigation.
How it happened
According to the NTSB, at approximately 3:40 p.m., a 2016 Freightliner truck-tractor in combination with a semitrailer was traveling north on Interstate 75 (I-75) in Gainesville, Florida, when it struck a 2016 Acura passenger car that was also traveling north. At this location, I-75 is a divided highway with three lanes traveling in each direction, separated by an earthen median and a median barrier. The posted speed limit is 70 mph.
The Freightliner continued to the left along with the redirected Acura, crashed through a w-beam median barrier, crossed the center median, and entered the southbound lanes—striking a 2006 Chevrolet 12-passenger van. After impact, the van rolled over twice before coming to rest upright. A 2006 Chevrolet pickup truck was also damaged during this segment of the crash event.
|The driver of the passenger car managed to extricate herself from her vehicle before it was fully engulfed in flames.|
The 2016 Freightliner continued across the southbound lanes and struck a 2018 Freightliner truck-tractor semitrailer that was traveling in the far-right lane, at which point the unbelted driver of the 2016 Freightliner was ejected. A postcrash fire ignited, fed by fuel from a breeched saddle tank on the 2016 Freightliner. The driver of the passenger car managed to extricate herself from her vehicle - which was entangled with the 2016 Freightliner – before it was fully engulfed in flames.
Only one person out of 16 was uninjured
Five vehicles with a total of 16 occupants were involved in the crash. Five occupants of the van were wearing their available lap/shoulder belts—including three who were ultimately ejected from the vehicle. The driver and front seat passenger were restrained with lap/shoulder belts and were not ejected. The drivers of the passenger car, the 2018 Freightliner, and the pickup truck were all wearing their lap/shoulder belts at the time of the crash. Seven of the 16 vehicle occupants were fatally injured, including the two Freightliner drivers and five passengers ejected from the van. Of the remaining nine vehicle occupants, only the driver of the pickup truck was uninjured.
Freightliner driver’s license, medical certificate were current
The 2016 Freightliner driver held a commercial driver’s license that expired in February 2022. His medical certificate was current until February 2020. Preliminary information suggests that he was operating within the regulated hours of service.
All aspects of the Gainesville, Florida, crash remain under investigation as the NTSB determines the probable cause, with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes. The NTSB is working alongside the Florida Highway Patrol, which is conducting a separate, parallel investigation.