Camper fire slows traffic on interstate in Indian River County
By Lamaur Stancil staff writer
November 28, 2003
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY ó A married couple's holiday weekend was ruined Thursday, and many more drivers found themselves in the slow lane after three accidents on Interstate 95.
The couple's camper caught fire as they traveled south near Fellsmere. Ensuing traffic congestion led to a flatbed truck spilling 54 large crates of grapefruit onto the southbound I-95 exit from County Road 512, closing the exit for several hours.
There were no injuries.
The Florida Highway Patrol received a call about the camper fire at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. The driver of the truck towing the camper, whose name was not available, pulled to the west side of southbound I-95 one mile south of C.R. 512.
The blaze engulfed the truck and the camper, said Lt. Will Ramsey of Indian River Fire and Rescue.
No cause has been determined for the fire, which was accelerated by two propane tanks in the camper that exploded, Ramsey said. Firefighters from two engines doused the blaze within five minutes of their arrival, he said, but traffic was reduced to one lane.
The driver and his wife, who was driving behind him in another vehicle, were not hurt, Ramsey said.
"It's a real shame," Ramsey said about the couple. "This messed up their Thanksgiving weekend."
Traffic swelled on I-95 as cars slowed down to avoid the burning camper and to make way for emergency vehicles. The backup led to a grapefruit-hauling truck spilling its load onto the I-95 exit.
Jim Copeland, who was driving for Robinson Fruit Haulers of Fort Pierce, said he was in the right lane of southbound I-95 at the C.R. 512 overpass when the cars in front of him suddenly slowed down. Copeland veered right, but the right-hand shoulder was blocked by two parked cars that had been involved in a fender bender.
Copeland drove his truck down the embankment from the overpass and came to a stop on the I-95 exit.
The movement shifted the grapefruit crates off the flatbed truck. Thousands of the grapefruit bounced onto the road. Copeland was not hurt.
"I was just making sure I didn't hit the car in front of me," said Copeland, 54, of Daytona Beach. "I'm just glad I didn't hit nobody."
Copeland was delivering the grapefruit from Cape Canaveral to Fort Pierce. He said the crates had been tied down with cables, but they gave way when he left the interstate.
"Based on what he told us, it sounds like he did the right thing," said Indian River County Sheriff's Deputy Patrick White.
Migrant workers from Fellsmere volunteered to assist Copeland in picking up the grapefruit.
It was not known Thursday night whether charges would be filed by the FHP against anyone.
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11-30-2003, 10:59 AM #1
Florida--Accidents + Camper Fire Snarl I-95 Traffic09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
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