Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pastor, Family among 10 Killed in Florida Crash

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pastor, Family among 10 Killed in Florida Crash

Article excerpt

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Senior pastor Arao Amazonas said he wanted to wait until the next morning to leave Florida after a religious conference. But pastor Jose Carmo Jr. wanted to be back in time for the suburban Atlanta church's Sunday morning service and led two vans up Interstate 75 toward Georgia.

A few hours later, Mr. Amazonas received a call: Both vans had crashed in the highway's fog- and smoke-shrouded darkness near Gainesville. Mr. Carmo, his wife and their daughter were among five church members killed in two deadly pileups along the always busy six-lane interstate.

"We couldn't have imagined such tragedy would come to us," said Mr. Amazonas, senior pastor at the Igreja Internacional de Restaurcao, or International Church of the Restoration.

In all, a total of 10 people were killed in the string of collisions. The accident happened after the Florida Highway Patrol had reopened the interstate following an earlier serious wreck. A sergeant and lieutenant determined after about three hours that conditions had cleared enough for drivers, but visibility quickly became murky again, officials said Monday. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has ordered an investigation into that decision.

"We went through the area. We made an assessment. We came to the conclusion that the road was safe to travel and that is when we opened the road up," Highway patrol spokesman Lt. Patrick Riordan said in a news conference. "Drivers have to recognize that the environment changes. They have to be prepared to make good judgments."

At least a dozen cars, six tractor-trailers and a motorhome collided about 3:45 a.m. Sunday. Some cars were crushed under the bellies of big rigs. Others burst into flames and sent metal shrapnel flying through the air, horrifying witnesses watching the violence along Interstate 75. Eighteen survivors were hospitalized.

In a 911 recording released Monday, a driver and her passengers told a dispatcher the fog and smoke from the 62-acre brush fire was so thick they couldn't see. …

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