Gainesville, Florida - Florida Highway Patrol reported that 5 children were among the 7 killed in a fiery four vehicle crash on I-75 on Thursday afternoon. It was determined that two tractor trailer trucks, one passenger vehicle, and a large church van were involved in the crash which began in the northbound lanes just south of Alachua.
Early investigation reports from Alachua County Fire Rescue state that between the two trucks, some 50 gallons of diesel fuel had spilled into the road, which ignited and fed the flames for two hours until the fire was finally extinguished. ABC Action News reported that even the roadway was badly damaged due to the intensity of the fire.
"We kept seeing these little explosions and fire," a woman traveling with her family said. "The heat, it was insane."
Alachua County Sheriff’s spokesman Art Forgey stated that the church van driven by a Louisiana pastor and his wife was carrying 9 children to Disney World. 5 of the children were killed and several more were taken to the hospital for serious injuries, including the pastor’s wife.
Investigators Still Working to Determine the Cause of the Crash
A preliminary investigation reported that the deadly crash began when a tractor trailer and a passenger car who were heading northbound collided with one another. Upon impact, both truck and car crashed through the guardrail and across the median and into the southbound lanes. Once there, the truck slammed into the van as well as another truck, and both trucks erupted in flames.
Highway Patrol Lieutenant Riordan stated on Friday morning that it is too early in the investigation to determine what caused the initial crash.
According to Florida Highway Patrol, a traffic homicide investigation has been opened. This is not unusual for fatal car accidents. Homicide detectives help investigate the circumstances surrounding the crash to determine the cause, fault, and any potential crimes.
Determination of Wrongful Death
When the traffic homicide detectives reach their conclusions about the cause of the crash, they will typically share their findings in a traffic homicide report. If the report states that one or more of the drivers was negligent or reckless, or if it is determined that insufficient safety precautions on the road could have prevented a serious crash, then the surviving family members of the victims may have a wrongful death claim in Florida.
A spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation stated that it was too soon to determine why the guardrails broke. It is unknown if the impact from the truck was too great for the guardrail to withstand or if the barrier simply failed.
This fatal truck crash no doubt took a devastating toll on the surviving families of the victims. Without warning, 7 families must now begin planning a costly funeral for their loved ones. Most will have to take off work and some will have to travel. Financial compensation and damages awarded to plaintiffs in a Florida wrongful death claim can help alleviate some of these expenses. Damages for pain and suffering may also be awarded for emotional trauma, including expenses such as therapy or psychiatric care.
Fatal car accidents not only often concern wrongful death claims, but may involve Florida probate law as well. Probate is the legal process of identifying the deceased’s assets, paying the debts, and then distributing the assets to beneficiaries. When someone is killed in a car accident, a personal representative must be appointed to manage the estate and pursue claims on behalf of the survivors.
In devastating crashes like these, grieving families who are focused on healing from their loss may not be thinking about possible wrongful death claims, and may fail to file such a claim. Survivors, however, only have 2 years to file a claim for wrongful death following a fatal car accident in Florida. It is important for the families of the victims to have a wrongful death attorney in Florida who can get them the compensation they deserve and give them a sense of closure from their devastating loss. They may also be entitled to certain death benefits from their car insurance company, as well as other possible sources.
Questions about a fatal car accident in Florida? Call our wrongful death attorneys at the Law Offices of Jason Turchin for more information at 800-337-7755.