5 children among 7 dead in fiery I-75 crash near Gainesville

FHP investigates fatal 4-vehicle crash in Alachua County

ALACHUA COUNTY, Fla. – Seven people died when a crash involving four vehicles prompted a diesel fuel spill that sparked a fire on Interstate 75 in Alachua County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. 

Officials confirmed that five children were among those killed in the fiery crash. The children were on their way to Walt Disney World.

During a news conference Friday morning, Lt. Patrick Riordan said the church passenger van carrying the children was from the Avoyelles Parish in Louisiana. 

Riordan said a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle traveling north on I-75 near Gainesville collided and went through the guardrail into the southbound lanes. They struck the passenger van and another tractor-trailer. He said when the trucks collided, they caught fire.

Troopers closed I-75 in both directions and rerouted southbound traffic at U.S. Highway 441 and northbound traffic at State Road 26. The northbound lanes reopened about 8 p.m. 

After the crash, about 50 gallons of diesel spilled onto the road. The flames and black smoke grew quickly, and drivers who feared an explosion started to drive in the wrong direction on I-75 to get away from the fire. 

A multi-vehicle crash near Gainesville Thursday left 6 people dead. Photo courtesy of Alachua County Fire Rescue via News 4 Jax

Alachua County firefighters rushed to the scene of the crash. They found eight injured. 

The firefighters extinguished the fire and paramedics took the injured to UF Health Shands Hospital, a teaching hospital of the University of Florida, the Gainesville Sun reported

Homicide detectives are investigating the cause of the crash. Vehicle parts and both of the burned tractor-trailer rigs remained on the interstate. 

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