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Toll from last week's I-4 pileup rises to five dead
The highway is shut down again for five hours because of the still-smoldering brush fire.
By ABBIE VANSICKLE and MIKE BRASSFIELD, Times Staff Writers
Published January 16, 2008
TAMPA - A 31-year-old Lakeland construction worker died Sunday, the fifth fatality in the Jan. 9 crashes on Interstate 4.
Adrian Gomez, a married father of four, died at Lakeland Regional Hospital, said Ross Garcia, a spokesman for the Gomez family's attorney.
The morning of the crash, Gomez and seven other family members left home in Lakeland for a construction site in Kissimmee, Garcia said. They split up into two vans. Adrian was in a passenger seat when the crashes happened, Garcia said.
The van was among the 70 vehicles caught in a chain-reaction of collisions that immediately killed four people and sent 38 more to hospitals. That morning, a thick fog blanketed the interstate. Smoke from a nearby brush fire made visibility even more difficult.
The crash led officials to close a 14-mile stretch of the highway.
The same stretch of I-4 was shut down for five hours Tuesday morning because of smoke from the still-smoldering brush fire. Officials will continue to watch for smoke today, and they hope that rain tonight or Thursday will dampen the fire. Fog is not expected.
Officials closed the interstate from U.S. 27 to County Road 557 near Polk City after Florida Highway Patrol troopers reported zero visibility on the highway.
The state Division of Forestry is still battling parts of the swamp fire that once covered 400 acres.
On Tuesday, the Highway Patrol continued to release more names of those hurt in the crash.
Two of the injured are members of Gomez's family.
One of the men has a broken leg. Another has a fractured sternum, Garcia said. Both have been released from the hospital.
None has health insurance, Garcia said.
The family's attorney, William McBride, did not return calls for comment. Family members could not be reached.
Garcia said Gomez, who came to the United States from Honduras, is survived by a wife and four young children.
He added that the family is struggling to pay for a funeral for Gomez and is working to set up a fund for donations.
Times staff writer Casey Cora contributed to this report. Abbie VanSickle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 813 226-3373.