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    Default 7 dead, 12 injured in I-95 crash

    7 dead, 12 injured in I-95 crash
    By Derek Simmonsen staff writer
    April 1, 2004

    FORT PIERCE ó Seven grove workers were killed and a dozen injured Thursday evening when the cargo van they were traveling in overturned several times on Interstate 95.

    The accident ó in which all 19 men were thrown from the van ó took place about 5:45 p.m., not far from the Orange Avenue exit.

    "Itís a very heart-wrenching accident," Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Tim Frith said. "I havenít seen (seven) fatalities in one vehicle in my career."

    The workers, from Circle H Citrus of Fort Pierce, were coming from a grove in Sebastian and preparing to take the Okeechobee Avenue exit back into Fort Pierce, Frith said.

    Most of the men lived in the Fort Pierce area. Their names and ages were not available, pending notification of family members.

    The 2001 Ford van was traveling south on I-95 when it overturned, rolled four times through the grass median and landed on its right side in the northbound lane of traffic, Frith said. It stopped not far from the northbound on-ramp to the interstate, resting partially in the median.

    "It appeared that the driver was moving in the lane as if he was distracted for some reason," Frith said witnesses told troopers.

    The cargo van they were traveling in had four bench seats and single seats for a driver and passenger, Frith said. Troopers are investigating whether the van was overloaded, he said.

    Six men were pronounced dead at the scene by rescue workers and a seventh died at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center late Thursday.

    Of the remaining men, one was flown to Holmes Regional Medical Center in Melbourne, one was flown to St. Maryís Medical Center in West Palm Beach, four were taken to St. Lucie Medical Center, two were taken to Indian River Memorial Hospital in Vero Beach and four were taken to Lawnwood.

    Some of the other men had life-threatening injuries, Frith said.

    About 25 rescue workers and three dozen troopers and deputies arrived to direct traffic and assist in the investigation.

    The northbound lanes of I-95 were closed for hours from the Okeechobee Road exit to the Indrio Road exit. A single lane southbound was open through most of the investigation, but traffic was moving slowly. All lanes were reopened at 10:40 p.m., the Florida Highway Patrol said.

    Frank Short, 49, was traveling home to Titusville on I-95, having just delivered rolls of paper to The Stuart News, when his tractor-trailer pulled up to the accident. He didnít see the crash happen, but saw the overturned van and bodies in the road, he said.

    "They were just scattered everywhere," Short said. "This is the worst single-vehicle accident Iíve seen in a while."

    - derek.simmonsen@scripps.com
    Ladders dont put out fires... water puts out fires... engines companies rule.

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    Ladders dont put out fires... water puts out fires... engines companies rule.

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