COLUMBIA COUNTY, Fla. – Two major accident that left at least one person dead and many others hospitalized along I-75 in Columbia County closed down the interstate for hours Friday.
Three vehicles, including a church van, crashed on Interstate 75 in Columbia County on Friday afternoon, closing all northbound lanes north of I-10.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 13 to 14 people were inside the van driven by 46-year-old Pah Kyar. Sources said the van flipped in the crash, which happened about 3:30 p.m.
FHP says Kyar slowed and tried to change lanes. Kyar was cited for an improper lane change.
FHP said three patients were airlifted to UF Health in Gainesville, and about 10 others were taken by ambulance to area hospitals. Two patients were in critical condition, FHP said.
The other vehicles in the crash included a 2006 Toyota SUV driven by 25-year-old Mallory Bowden and a 2001 Ford F-350 driven by 40-year-old Howard Lloyd.
Columbia, Alachua and Baker county rescuers responded to the scene.
Officials have said that the large influx of drivers headed along I-75 toward Jacksonville for the annual Florida-Georgia football game, the Columbia County Fair and the Halloween holiday may have contributed to the accident.
Emergency officials were forced to close the interstate to transport victims, but according to Sgt. Tracy Pace, with the Florida Highway Patrol, treating victims always takes top priority.
"If that means we have to shut down the interstate for helicopters and emergency vehicles then we have to. But we know the motoring public understands that because if it were their family members, they'd want them taken care of the same way," Pace said.
Investigators are still working to determine how the crash happened.
A second crash happened around 9:15 p.m. between two vehicles around the 418 mile marker that closed all southbound lanes of I-75 and left one person dead.
A car driven by Jesus Figueroa, 64 of Orlando rear-ended a truck-tractor. The truck jackknifed. Figueroa died in the crash. The truck driver suffered minor injuries.
Pace also took time to warn travelers on the roads over the weekend to take an extra moment to think about safety so they can make it to their destinations safe and sound.
"If you're traveling in Columbia County or you plan to be traveling northbound on I-75 in this area we just ask that you use patience and courtesy to other drivers," Pace said.