Updated:GAINESVILLE, Fla.,None —
A stretch of Interstate 75 in Alachua County reopened after being closed Monday morning, following a fiery chain of crashes that killed at least 10 people Sunday morning.
I-75 northbound reopened at mile marker 358, as well as U.S. 441 at the US-301 split in Marion County all the way to Alachua County.
Officials said at least 12 vehicles and seven semis collided and then burst into flames along I-75, just south of Gainesville Sunday morning.
The National Transportation Safety Board has sent investigators to the scene.
The NTSB said it is assessing whether it wants to formally join the investigation into Sunday's crashes.
Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan said the pileups happened around 3:45 a.m. on Sunday on both sides of I-75.
Officials blame the thick smoke from the nearby Paynes Prairie fire for the disaster. They've determined it was started by someone, but don't know if it was done purposely. That fire mixed with fog early Sunday morning, which blanketed the interstate and caused zero visibility.
“The fog was so dense, you could literally get out of the car, hold up your hand and you wouldn't see it," said Steven Camps, who survived what he describes as complete chaos.
"In the beginning you hear cracks and thuds and bumps and hits,” said Camps. "Then when that settles down you hear the moaning of the injured. You hear people crying. You hear people asking why."
"You couldn't see the cars, but you could hear them going back and forward and hitting each other,” said Camps. “And that was the scariest part you never knew where it was coming from, you could hear but you couldn't tell which angle it was coming from.”
Florida state troopers shut down the interstate for hours as they cleared the scene and removed the injured. Riordan said FHP had closed the highway briefly overnight because of the mixture of smoke and fog in the Paynes Prairie area. It was reopened shortly before the crashes occurred.
In the end, officials said at least 18 people were hospitalized and 10 others died.
"It’s a miracle we even got out of that car,” said Camps. “It just literally blows your mind. I mean somebody's life is gone that quick."
Camps walked away from his accident with a few stitches on his knee.