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Questions linger about cops, truckers in wake of deadly crashes

A La Crosse TV station is running a report on lingering questions about the deadly chain of car and truck accidents on a smoke- and fog-choked Florida interstate highway this past weekend.

State troopers there shut down the highway around midnight Saturday following a crash involving a pair of SUVs. After three hours, the highway was reopened; minutes later the series of crashes involving at least six tractor-trailers, a dozen cars and a motorhome began.

After it was all over, authorities said 11 people had died in the wrecks and 18 people were hospitalized.

There have been reports of truck drivers stopping their vehicles in their lanes on the highway, only to have following cars and trucks slam into them in the near zero visibility conditions. Officials say they're not sure why the truckers stopped their vehicles on the road, rather than pulling off onto the shoulder or median.

The pile-ups were on both sides of the roadway. When rescuers initially arrived on the scene, they couldn't see accident victims because of the dense fog and smoke. Victims were located by the sounds of their cries for help and their groans, responders said.

One man who was driving to Gainesville in the pre-dawn hours when the accidents occurred said, "If I could give you an idea of what it looked like, I would say it looked like the end of the world."

Cars and trucks and debris were strewn over a mile of highway, officials said. Several people were incinerated in vehicles that went up in flames after the collisions.

Investigators say they're looking into why troopers reopened the highway when they did and why the truckers stopped in their lanes, among many other questions still to be addressed in the wake of the tragedy.

Source: WXOW: "Questions remain in deadly Florida highway crash," Mike Schneider, Jan. 30, 2012

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