911 call captures horror of I-75 crash scene
Published: Monday, January 30, 2012 at 2:01 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 30, 2012 at 2:01 p.m.
The Alachua County Sheriff's Office released a duplicate of a 911 call placed from beside Interstate 75 early Sunday morning near a series of crashes that claimed the lives of 10 people and left many others injured.
The recording of the call — from women whose car hit a guard rail as they were traveling south of Gainesville in thick smoke and fog — is graphic and chilling. The recording was edited by ACSO to remove information that identified the callers. However, it has not been edited by the The Sun and contains words and sounds that may be disturbing to some listeners.
According to the introduction added by the Sheriff's Office, the call was placed at 4 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 29. The recording lasts 12 minutes and 52 seconds.
It captures a scene of horror, as these women, standing in darkness and impenetrable haze, hear cars crashing one after another on the other side of the interstate. They hear crying from the victims.
By the end of the call, several victims are lying beside the road, and the woman on the phone, sounding very distressed, sees a woman whose son is near death.
The timeline, with markers indicating time elapsed during the recording, gives an account of the tragedy as it unfolded. To focus on key moments, many other parts of the conversations between the female dispatcher and women are omitted.
The caller — one of two or three women who talk with the dispatcher during the call — explains that they hit a guard rail and have heard another accident.
"Oh my gosh, it's so dark here," the caller says. And later, "There's lots of smoke and fog."
The people from the car have gotten off the road as far as they can. No one from their car is injured.
The caller says: "Think I heard another crash back there."
The caller hands the phone off to a friend, another woman, who takes up the conversation with the dispatcher.
"It's really bad out here. People are just stopping," the woman tells the dispatcher.
The communications center has gotten very busy, and the dispatcher is about to get off the phone with the woman.
The dispatcher says, "I'm going to have to let you go. We have a lot of lines ringing right now. But we do have help going out there to you."
At that moment, there's another crash.
"Oh, (expletive) another accident. Oh, my gosh," the woman says.
"What just happened? Tell me what happened. Tell me what you see," says the dispatcher.
"Another accident, another accident going northbound, yeah. Oh my goodness. And that was a truck," the woman says.
"OK. What kind of truck, like a semi or a pickup?" asks the dispatcher.
"We can't see. We cannot see," the woman says. "It's like impossible to see. The haze is like, the smoke is like very thick."
There's a loud bang.
"Oh my God, what's going on?" the woman says.
She tells the dispatcher, "This is the third one now, already."
Now, and through much of the call, the dispatcher urges the women to stay as far off the road as they can.
"Oh, oh, oh, another one," the woman says. "Ma'am, that's four … one coming south now."
"Hold on, hold on. We're hearing another one," she tells the dispatcher, referring to a vehicle approaching. "He stopped in time."
There's a loud popping sound.
"Oh my gosh, another one," the woman tells the dispatcher. "Oh my goodness, this is bad. You know what it is, because they can't see."
The dispatcher asks for information about the crashes. "Is anyone pinned or trapped in their vehicles?" she says. "Or is everyone seeming to be able to get out?"
"Ma'am, ma'am, ma'am," the woman says. "This is the 10th one now. We've just had five in a row."
They can't see if anyone is trapped or if there is fire.
"Here comes another one," the woman says.
Someone else can be heard saying, "Oh my God, he's coming too fast."
There's a crash, the sound of metal crunching.
"Oh (expletive)! That one is a bad one," the woman says.
The woman on the phone, who has kept a fairly even tone of voice, seems to be reacting with shock.
"I know this is very traumatic," the dispatcher tells her. "I need you to keep calm for me." The dispatcher tells her to make sure the others beside the road know that the police and paramedics are coming.
Someone, perhaps the woman who was on the phone, can be heard shouting: "The police and the ambulance are on the way!"
"I'm hearing people crying on the other side. That's northbound," the woman says. "… Please slow down, please slow down, please slow down. They're putting on their lights, at least, thank God."
The woman passes the phone to a friend, who sounds very distressed.
The dispatcher tries to comfort her. "They're already there," the dispatcher says. "We're just sending more and more help to take care of all these people."
The woman on the phone says: "There's a lot of people laying down on the (ground), it looks like." There's someone, she says, whose son appears to be dying.
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