I-4 closed after massive pileup

Cars and trucks smolder along Interstate 4 near Lakeland, Fla., the scene of a multi-vehicle pileup where authorities said at least three people died in a crash brought on by smoke from a brush fire and dense fog, early Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008.

George Skene/The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 12:14 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 10, 2008 at 12:14 p.m.

POLK CITY, Fla. - Heavy fog shrouded a central Florida highway early Thursday, forcing crews to stop repairing the road that was the scene of a 70-car accident that killed four people and injured 38 a day earlier.

Interstate 4 has been closed since a series of accidents Wednesday morning on the main road connecting Tampa and Orlando. The fog is being blamed for causing the series of crashes that involved cars along 14 miles of the highway.

All the vehicles damaged in the collisions have been removed.

Fires from burning trucks scorched the asphalt and crews worked until about 3:30 a.m. trying to make repairs. By then, more fog forced workers to stop.

"Please don't even try to come here," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told CNN early Thursday. His agency closed numerous roads because of the fog.

Investigators are working with families and medical examiners to identify the dead, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Larry Coggins said. Five people were also seriously injured in the crashes. Their conditions were unknown Thursday morning.

Officials continue to investigate whether smoke from a brush fire burning near I-4 contributed to the crash. The fire began as a controlled burn, but jumped fire lines and scorched 400 acres.

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