SARASOTA — At least 52 people were taken to local hospitals after a massive pileup on Interstate 75 involving 47 vehicles, according to Florida Highway Patrol. No fatalities have been reported.
FHP said there are at least 12 separate crash investigations with more to follow in the incident that occurred in the southbound lanes near the I-75/University Parkway interchange.
Southbound I-75 at University Parkway was shut down soon after the accident, which was reported at 3:11 p.m. The southbound lanes reopened at about 9 p.m.; the northbound lanes were not affected.
Two patients had to be flown from the scene in medical helicopters with injuries that were not life-threatening, according to Florida Highway Patrol.
Nearby Lakewood Ranch Medical Center admitted 13 victims with broken bones, friction burns from airbags and lacerations from broken glass, according to Jennifer Bryan, spokeswoman for the hospital. Most were transported by ambulance, but there were also some walk-ins, she said.
One of the victims underwent surgery Friday afternoon.
“We’ve had drills with pretty much the exact situation,” Bryan said. “The actual implementation was even better; we’ve practiced what just happened.”
The accident scene, just south of the University Parkway exit, was actually a series of at least seven crashes.
There was a light rain when the accident happened. Contributing to the wreck is that there is a slight hill in the area so motorists were not able to slow down or stop in time to avoid the wreckage that was taking place in front of them, officials said.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, which is assisting in the response, said one of the vehicles involved was a tanker that leaked liquid calcium, which is not considered hazardous.
The Sarasota County Fire Department has 18 units on the scene, according to the sheriff's office, and other units have responded from Manatee and Charlotte counties. The American Red Cross also is assisting.
The Florida Highway Patrol is asking drivers to avoid the area.
Vehicles traveling southbound on I-75 need to exit at State Road 70 and re-enter the interstate at State Road 780 (Fruitville Road).
There were reports that traffic on southbound U.S. 301, which runs parallel to I-75, was running slower than usual.