In the early morning hours of January 29th, smoke from a nearby wildfire filled the air on I-75 near Gainesville.
The Florida Highway Patrol closed the road as the smoke mixed with fog making it hard to see. Troopers reported improving conditions and at 3:30AM, I-75 was reopened. Thirty minutes later cars began slamming into each other and 11 people died.
According to a FDLE investigation, poor communication and poor training are to blame, but FHP released a response Friday saying the FDLE report doesn’t take into account driver behavior.
The report reads, “driver behavior, which was not addressed, contributed to the crashes. Also drug/alcohol use was confirmed on the part of several of the drivers.”
“It’s comprehensive, it’s transparent and we are going to let it speak for itself,” said FHP Spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto Duarte.
A spokesman for FHP couldn’t comment about the specifics of the report, but we learned two of the drivers involved in the crash have been charged with DUI, but not manslaughter which means their intoxication may not have played a role in the crash.
“There was one person who was reported as having used a marijuana substance, but that person is deceased so there is no charge. There was someone else who was driving with a revoked license,” said Duarte.
The FDLE investigation suggests troopers made several changes. FHP is updating some of its policies, but according to the report, none of those changes could have prevented the pileup.
One reason, FHP isn’t talking too much about their written response is pending litigation. As many as a dozen victims of the wrecks are planning to sue the Highway Patrol. The state reportedly turned down several requests for out-of-court settlements.