2 adults, 2 children killed in fiery Buckman Bridge crash

Florida Highway Patrol says tractor-trailer ran into SUV

By Marques White - Reporter, Scott Johnson - Reporter, Francesca Amiker - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Four people in one SUV died after it was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer on the Buckman Bridge about 2 p.m. Monday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. 

All southbound lanes of the Buckman Bridge were closed for more than five hours. They reopened shortly after 7 p.m.

The FHP said two adults and two children in the SUV that burst into flames died. A second SUV was involved in the crash and three other people were transported to hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries. The driver of the big rig was not injured.

FHP is still investigating who is at fault in the crash.

"It's a very complex scene; a very long scene," said FHP Sgt. Dylan Bryan. "That complicates things."

Florida Department of Transportation cameras showed a tractor-trailer and the SUVs involved in the crash. Police, fire and rescue units arrived as a column of black smoke rose from the burning SUV.

IMAGES: Motorists' photos of fire

Troopers said they think they know the identities of the victims, but they would have to confirm that and notify families before releasing the names.

The FHP said they had valuable witness information to help them understand how the accident happened. Officials said it appears the SUV that caught fire was slowing down, but the semi didn't stop in time, and an SUV behind the first two vehicles got caught up in the crash, too.

Over the course of the afternoon, southbound traffic halted by the crash was slowly turned around and exited off the bridge. Entrances to I-295 southbound were blocked at both Roosevelt and Blanding boulevards.

A Florida Department of Transportation spokesman said inspectors were looking at the pavement and guardrail where the crash occurred to make sure there's no structural damage.

"Typically when you have a fire situation, there can be damaged asphalt," FDOT spokesman Ron Tittle said. "They don't know until they get in there, but it could have damaged the asphalt enough to where we may have to close the lane after the emergency clears."

In February 2010, a driver under the influence cut off 41-year-old Luma Kajy's SUV, causing it to flip over the bridge. The mother of two died.

Then, last July, 48-year-old William Maddox drowned in the St. Johns River after a driver lost control and hit his truck, spinning it off the bridge.

A few days after that accident, another car hit the guardrail and almost went over.

And in September, a Mazda Tribute ended up on the guardrail after 43-year-old Tammy Jennings was changing lanes, over-corrected and swerved from lane to lane.

But FDOT officials said the bridge meets all Florida highway qualifications and is safe.

"It's safe as long as people make it safe," FDOT spokesman Ron Tittle said. "One of the challenges since the last person that went into the water, unfortunately, is we put up signs, and it's being patrolled by Florida Highway Patrol, and for those speeds and all for people to be cautious."

Tittle said a team began studying the bridge's structural integrity in January, checking pillars and concrete for erosion. That study will be finished by August. 

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