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Accident Report Detail

Multiple Vehicle Collisions and Fires Under Limited Visibility Conditions Interstate Route 75

Executive Summary

​Between 1:30 p.m. and 1:55 p.m., e.s.t., on February 28, 1983, a grass fire of an undetermined origin was ignited in the gore area between the southbound exit ramp from Interstate Route 75 (1-75) to U.S. Route 27 and the southbound lanes of I-75. The fire burned rapidly, and a strong wind from the south-southwest fanned dense smoke across the southbound lanes of I-75. About 2 p.m., the smoke reduced visibility for a 200- to 300-foot stretch of the roadway from near zero to about 40 to 60 feet. Approaching drivers had a clear view of the smoke cloud for over 2 miles before entering the smoke, but they responded with diverse assumptions and drove into and through the smoke at a wide range of speeds. At least 22 vehicles, including three combination vehicles, all traveling south on I-75, entered the cloud of smoke and were involved in multiple vehicle collisions. Vehicle fuel tanks were breached and a gasoline fed fire erupted. Fourteen vehicles, including all three combination vehicles, were burned. In addition to extensive property damage being caused, 5 vehicle occupants were killed and 36 were injured. At least three rescuers suffered thermal injuries.

Probable Cause

​The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the failure of most of the involved drivers to exercise proper judgment and due caution when confronted by a cloud of dense smoke blanketing the highway. Contributing to the accident was the extremely limited visibility within the smoke cloud and the widely varying speeds at which different vehicles entered and were being driven through the smoke cloud. Contributing to the severity of the accident was the breach of fuel system integrity in a number of vehicles and the resultant vehicle fires.

Accident Location: Ocala , FL    
Accident Date: 2/28/1983
Accident ID: DCA83AH004AB

Date Adopted: 10/18/1983
NTSB Number: HAR-83-04
NTIS Number: PB83-916204

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