Two women killed in crash on I-75By AMY HERDY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 7, 2002
TAMPA -- Amber Chambers was taking her younger sister to their mother's home in Ruskin on Sunday night when she slowed on southbound Interstate 75, starting a deadly chain reaction, officials said.
One semitrailer truck behind the young woman's Nissan Stanza swerved out of the way, but a second one was unable to avoid hitting the car, instantly killing Chambers, 20, of Orlando, and her sister Emily, 18, of Ruskin. No one else was seriously injured in the 7 p.m. crash.
The first truck, a Penske semitrailer truck, went on to clip a Chevrolet Camaro driven by Scottish tourists before it jackknifed over the edge of the I-75 overpass and hung over the eastbound lanes of Big Bend Road, or County Road 672, shutting down both the interstate and CR 672 for hours.
Workers hoped to pull the truck back onto the interstate with a wrecker and remove it by this morning, said Hillsborough County Fire Rescue spokeswoman Nancy Couch. She added that the interstate would then be examined to make sure it was structurally sound. The Camaro slammed into the guardrail on the west side of the interstate. Other than a few cuts from broken glass, the tourists, a family from Scotland with a 3-year-old daughter in the backseat, were unharmed.
The second semitrailer truck, a Schneider National truck, came to rest in the middle lane of the interstate, the devastated Nissan tucked under its right front bumper.
Neither the driver of the Penske truck, 54-year-old Gary Allen Guffey of Bradenton, nor the driver of the Schneider truck, 40-year-old Randolph McFadden of Columbus, Ga., were injured.
Guffey said he managed to climb out of the cab of his truck as it was perched over the guardrail of the interstate. He walked along the running board until onlookers on the interstate pulled him to safety.
Wearing shorts and a white shirt, he appeared to be in shock as he surveyed the wreckage at the scene. "I'm disappointed," Guffey said before walking away.
McFadden declined to comment.
The Florida Highway Patrol was investigating the crash late Sunday.
Keith McLay, 34, a production manager from Glasgow, Scotland, said he and his girlfriend, 37-year-old Lorraine McNeil, were heading to Redington Beach after a day at Sea World when about 100 yards in front of them, a small car drove across the interstate.
A semitrailer truck came across the road at the same time, McLay said.
"I was trying to get out of the way of the truck. I thought we got past but he hit the right-hand side," sending the Camaro into a spin before it came to rest against the guardrail.
"I was shouting, 'Hold on!' " he recalled, as both airbags in the Camaro inflated.
His girlfriend, McNeil, a fitness instructor, said she has just shut her eyes when "I felt something whacking me in the face."
It was glass from the shattered windshield, which cut her nose and mouth.
The couple's 3-year-old daughter, Keela McLay, left the car without a scratch. She scampered about the crash scene, happily clutching a large stuffed E.T. toy that a firefighter retrieved for her from the wrecked Camaro.
Her mother was thankful for a premonition that caused her to move her daughter's purple animal print car seat to the other side of the car earlier Sunday.
For the three weeks they have been on vacation in the United States, she said, Keela's car seat was on the passenger side of the Camaro. On Sunday, the couple moved it to its current location on the driver's side of the backseat.
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