At least six people have died and more were injured in a fiery crash near Gainesville, Florida, on Jan. 3, officials said.
Photos of the incident showed a tractor-trailer engulfed in flames amid the wreckage of other vehicles along on Interstate 75.
Florida Highway Patrol, the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, and Alachua County Fire Rescue have all responded to the scene of the crash.
— CBS4 Gainesville (@mycbs4) January 4, 2019
Officials said 50 gallons of gas spilled onto the highway but the fire was put out, WCTV reported.
Two tractor-trailer trucks and two passenger vehicles were involved in the accident about a mile south of Alachua, according to the Florida Highway Patrol, as reported by The Associated Press.
The Alachua County Fire Rescue told NBC News that eight patients were taken to the hospital. Many had critical injuries.
A helicopter landed on the scene of the wreck to search for any victims who might have been in a wooded area near the crash scene, which was described by Alachua County Sheriff’s officials as “extensive,” AP reported.
All lanes of the interstate, northbound and southbound, were shut down at around 5 p.m. ET.
The Alachua County Sherriff’s Office wrote on Twitter that the crash was in the northbound lanes but that the southbound lanes were closed to keep a route open for first responders.
The office added that it “required all hands on deck” and issued a warning to motorists that “the closure is going to be lengthy.”
“Unfortunately, this is a mass casualty crash with fire and an extensive scene. The crash is in the NB lanes. We needed to keep a route for first responders open. We apologize for delays in the commute. This required all hands on deck. The closure is going to be lengthy,” said the office.
The Florida Highway Patrol, meanwhile, stated that a significant amount of personal property, charred vehicles, and car parts were scattered across the interstate.
Authorities, without elaborating, told AP that they are treating the crash as a pending homicide investigation.
AVOID I-75 Northbound: Deputies are assisting #FHP with a serious crash at the 393 mile marker northbound (just north of NW 39th Avenue) – updates as soon as they’re available. @GACSmarttraffic pic.twitter.com/6txLEB4NGD
— Alachua Co. Sheriff (@AlachuaSheriff) January 3, 2019
“Deputies are assisting #FHP with a serious crash at the 393 mile marker northbound (just north of NW 39th Avenue) – updates as soon as they’re available,” the office also wrote.
The cause of the crash is not clear.
Other details about the incident were not released by police or fire officials.
US Traffic Deaths Down Overall in 2018
Traffic deaths in the United States fell 3.1 percent in the first six months of 2018, according to preliminary figures released in October, Reuters reported. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that 2017 traffic deaths fell by 1.8 percent to 37,133 after traffic deaths rose sharply in the previous two years, according to final figures.
The U.S. traffic fatality rate fell to 1.08 deaths per 100 million miles traveled for the first half of 2018. The fatality rate in 2017 was 1.16 deaths per 100 million miles traveled—the second highest rate since 2008.
“This is good news and bad news,” said Deborah Hersman, CEO of the National Safety Council, CNBC reported. “The total number of fatalities is not getting worse, but the situation is not getting better.”
Hersman cited distracted driving and higher speed limits for the tragic loss of life.