Three-rig pileup snarls 1-95 traffic

Crash sends Georgia driver, wife to hospital

By James Dean
FLORIDA TODAY

VALKARIA -- The southbound lanes of Interstate 95 were shut down for nearly seven hours at the dawn of the Labor Day weekend rush after a chain reaction collision early Friday involving three tractor-trailer rigs.

The collision began around 5:30 a.m. near the Valkaria rest stop, scattering a cargo of reinforced steel from one flatbed onto the road and spilling about 150 gallons of diesel from another truck's fuel tank.

"One truck was coming to a stop, and the other could not stop behind him and jackknifed in the road," said Joan Needelman, a spokeswoman for the Palm Bay Fire Department.

The flatbed in front was moving around 40 mph when it was hit from behind at more than 70 mph, Florida Highway Patrol investigators said.

The faster truck began to spin when it was struck from behind by a third semi, causing it to jackknife and block both lanes of traffic.

Palm Bay firefighters, assisted by Brevard County Fire-Rescue, used five Jaws of Life tools to remove a driver and his wife from the crumpled cabin of the middle truck.

The driver, 32-year-old Quane L. Taylor of East Point, Ga., and his wife, who was not identified, were flown to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne in serious but stable condition, FHP said.

None of the trucks was carrying hazardous materials, Needelman said.

Traffic, backed up for miles, was diverted to Malabar Road for a long detour into Indian River County before rejoining I-95 while rescue workers helped the victims and cleared debris.

Firefighters used hoses to clear the gas leak.

The road reopened at about 12:30 p.m., allowing holiday traffic to flow again.