TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A fiery crash involving two semi-trucks and several other vehicles shut down the northbound lanes of Interstate 75 Wednesday night, just north of New Tampa Boulevard, near the Hillsborough and Pasco County line. All lanes have since reopened.
According to Pasco County Fire Rescue, two people died and five others were treated at different area hospitals. Another person was involved in the chain-reaction wreck but walked away.
“We see a big plume of smoke suddenly. And my wife says ‘what is that?’ I look up because I wasn’t paying attention. And sure enough there was a big old fire,” said eyewitness Bobby Delidle of Pasco County.
The Florida Highway Patrol said the eight vehicles were traveling northbound in the outside and center lanes and some of them started slowing down for traffic ahead.
A 2015 International semi-truck driver failed to slow down in time and swerved into the center lane to avoid a collision, but it rear-ended a 2014 Chevrolet Equinox, causing a chain-reaction crash.
The semi-truck continued forward and hit a Mercedes sedan, then it rear-ended another semi-truck and trapped the sedan between the two tractor-trailers.
After coming to a rest on top of the Mercedes, the semi-truck hit a pillar for a roadway sign and both vehicles caught fire.
The first semi driver and the driver of the Mercedes died at the scene.
“It was chaotic,” Delidle said. “I was shocked to find out it was the trucker’s fault,” he said.
The truck is owned by James E. Owen Trucking, Inc., out of Virginia. When reached for comment, a company official declined to provide a statement.
Angela Rodriguez was one of countless drivers who was stuck in the hours-long, miles-long gridlock on I-75 northbound. By the time she was able to get off the interstate, her fuel tank had dwindled to empty.
“Actually it’s on zero right now, but it was down to one mile when I finally turned around and got off,” Rodriguez said from the gas pump at a nearby 7-Eleven.
Although Rodriguez never got to where she was going Wednesday night, she says her frustrations pale in comparison to what some families may be going through due to the wreck.
“I can’t imagine some of the phone calls probably being made right now,” she said. “I’m happy that I’m going to get to go home tonight.”
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