This image taken from a Florida 511 traffic camera and provided by the Alachua County Fire Rescue, shows a fiery crash along Interstate 75, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. (Alachua County Fire Rescue/Florida 511 via AP)

UPDATE: 5 children among 7 dead in Florida highway crash

Vinnie DeVita said he was driving south at the time and narrowly escaped the crash — he saw it happen in the rearview mirror

Two big rigs and two passenger vehicles collided and spilled diesel fuel across a Florida highway Thursday, sparking a massive fire that killed seven people and injured at least eight others, authorities said.

The wreck happened on southbound Interstate 75 1.6 kilometres south of Alachua, near Gainesville. The flames were fed by about 189 litres of diesel, authorities said.

Authorities initially said six had died but late Thursday night revealed a seventh victim had perished. At least eight others were hospitalized, some with critical injuries, the Gainesville Sun reported. FHP Lt. Patrick Riordan said early Thursday evening that five of the accident victims who died were in a passenger van, and another person who died was in one of the tractor-trailers.

Vinnie DeVita said he was driving south at the time and narrowly escaped the crash — he said it saw it happen in the rearview mirror, immediately behind him, according to a report by WKMG .

“If I had stepped on the brake when I heard the noise, undoubtedly, I would have been in that accident,” DeVita said. “And then within probably 15 to 20 seconds of it all, it exploded. I mean, just a ball of flames.”

Emergency crews extinguished the fire and authorities said they were treating the crash as a homicide investigation, but didn’t say why. The fire was so intense that authorities said it damaged parts of the road.

The aftermath closed part of the highway in both directions, causing massive delays. Authorities opened the northbound lanes around 8 p.m. but southbound lanes remained closed Friday morning. Debris including personal property and vehicle parts was scattered across the road, the Florida Highway Patrol said. A helicopter helped search for any victims who may have been in nearby woods.

It was the worst accident on I-75 in Alachua county since January 2012, when 11 people died in a chain reaction crash attributed to heavy fog and smoke on the roadway, which crosses Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. Officials were criticized then for not closing the road due to worsening conditions, and later installed cameras, sensors and large electronic signs to help prevent similar crashes.

The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Tier 3 Bantam Championships

“The packed arena and electricity within was fantastic.”

Port Hardy RCMP issues warning about recent overdose

“Our primary concern is public safety. We are urging the public to be aware of what is circulating.”

Port Hardy RCMP looking for volunteers who are interested in public safety

“The volunteer program will include community and crime prevention programs”

Suspicious fire in Alert Bay burns two homes, spreads to nearby bush

Police say underage suspects have been identified

VIDEO: North Island Bantam Eagles tie Dawson Creek Canucks in front of massive hometown crowd in Port Hardy

The Tier 3 Bantam Championships continued in style last night at the Don Cruickshank Memorial Arena.

Sparks fly as SUV speeds down wrong side of Highway 1 trying to flee RCMP

Captured on video, the vehicle headed westbound against oncoming traffic before crashing

Calgary captain has 3 points as Flames torch Canucks 3-1

Giordano leads way as Alberta side cracks 100-point plateau

Fire crews battle large blaze at Courtenay hostel

Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said nobody was injured

1,300 cruise ship passengers rescued by helicopter amid storm off Norway’s coast

Rescue teams with helicopters and boats were sent to evacuate the cruise ship under extremely difficult circumstances

B.C. university to offer first graduate program on mindfulness in Canada

University of the Fraser Valley says the mostly-online program focuses on self-care and well being

Province announces $18.6 million for B.C. Search and Rescue

The funding, spread over three years, to pay for operations, equipment, and training

Late-season wave of the flu makes its round in B.C.

BC Centre for Disease Control reported 50 per cent jump in flu cases in first weeks of March

Tofino’s housing crisis causing some to seek shelter at the local hospital

Tofino’s housing crisis is pushing the town’s ‘hidden homeless’ population into the forefront.

Sentencing judge in Broncos crash calls for carnage on highways to end

Judge Inez Cardinal sentenced Jaskirat Singh Sidhu to eight years

Most Read