MANATEE -- Officials have identified the motorist killed in the Aug. 22 crash involving a tractor-trailer and five other vehicles on the Interstate 75 bridge over the Manatee River.
Francisco Javier Martinez Herrera, 36, of Palmetto, died instantly when a tractor-trailer lost control in the northbound lanes, hit his Lincoln Navigator from behind, slamming it into a wall and causing it to explode in flames, according to Florida Highway Patrol.
The crash caused a domino effect involving four other vehicles, which closed northbound traffic for hours during the Friday evening rush hour.
The crash is still under investigation and charges against the driver of the semi-truck are pending the outcome, FHP said.
The 61-year-old truck driver, from New Orleans, was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital to be treated for his injuries and was released the same day.
Covell Funeral Home & Cremation of Bradenton will handle Martinez Herrera's remains. Covell says the family has not made funeral arrangements.
Investigators delayed in releasing the victim's name until the Medical Examiner's Office was able to positively identify the body. They had been in contact with the family during the process.
Preliminary investigation revealed the driver of the tractor-trailer failed to stop and then lost control, slamming into Martinez Herrera's 1998 Lincoln Navigator. Witnesses said they were horrified as they watched the SUV light up in flames and then be engulfed when it was slammed against the wall.
Although alcohol is not believed to have been a factor, company regulations required the driver of the rig to submit to a blood-alcohol count test. Those results are pending.
Over the years, the J.D. Young bridge has been the site of many major crashes. Most recently in 2013, a tractor trailer carrying beer went off the bridge, spilling its cargo into the Manatee River. In that crash the truck driver lost control of the rig on the rain-slicked bridge.
And in Sarasota on Aug. 27, I-75 northbound was shut down just before dawn when a fuel tanker lost control and crashed into the ditch on side of the highway. Northbound lanes remained closed for hours because the fuel had to be removed from the damaged tanker before cleanup could begin.
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter@JDeLeon1012.