WEST BROWARD, FLA. (WSVN) - One person was killed and at least 16 others were injured after, officials said, a passenger van and a pickup truck crashed on Alligator Alley in West Broward, Tuesday afternoon.
Units from Broward Sheriff’s Fire Rescue, Miami-Dade Fire Rescue and Palm Beach County Fire Rescue responded to the scene along the northbound lanes near Mile Marker 41.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the dark colored pickup truck and white passenger van collided and rolled over.
Investigators said the driver of the pickup truck rear-ended the van in the southbound lanes. “The pickup truck hit the van from the rear,” said FHP Lt. Alvaro Feola. “That caused the van’s driver to lose control.”
Officials said the van then crashed through the median and came to rest on its side in the northbound lanes. The impact of that collision caused several of the occupants to be ejected.
7Skyforce HD hovered above the scene of the overturned vehicles as rescue crews rendered aid to the victims.
Rescue crews pronounced one victim dead at the scene and set up a triage area on the side of the roadway to treat victims who sustained minor injuries.
Good Samaritans used a car jack to extricate a 45-year-old woman who was pinned underneath the van.
Officials said the 15 people inside the van were family and friends who were returning to South Florida after attending a baseball tournament in Fort Myers.
Cameras captured a Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue helicopter in the middle of the road.
Paramedics airlifted five of the injured victims as trauma alerts to Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale. Those with less serious injuries were transported by ground to Cleveland Clinic in Weston.
“Psychologically, for a firefighter, this is quite a difficult call,” said Broward Sheriff Fire Rescue Battalion Chief Michael Kane. “Some [patients] had head injuries, some had chest injuries, other patients have limb injuries.”
Four other victims were treated at the scene for minor injuries and did not need to be transported.
With so many victims, the crash could have been a challenge for first responders from three different jurisdictions, but Kane said coordination and cooperation went smoothly. “We were able to reach each other over the radio. We staggered the landings and takeoffs of the air rescue assets to maximize the number of patients in the most timely manner.”
Back at the scene of the crash, troopers shut down traffic in both directions, backing up traffic for miles, until around 1 a.m., when southbound lanes heading to South Florida from Naples were finally reopened.
Drivers stuck in traffic were horrified to learn what had happened just ahead of them. “Very dramatic pictures. Oh, my Lord,” said Sol Glastein, “and on a highway where there’s no real support, there’s no exits, there’s no facilities, and everybody has to just stop both ways to figure this out.”
“I mean, it’s traumatizing,” said driver Rosie Romano. “I can’t imagine what’s going through their mind, you know? I feel very sorry for them.”
It remained unclear, Tuesday night, how many people were being treated at Cleveland Clinic. The conditions of the five people transported to Broward Health Medical Center are unknown.
The cause of the crash remains under investigation.
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