Pasco commissioner's son survives deadly I-75 pile-up

7:37 PM, Jan 31, 2012   |    comments
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Tampa, Florida - When it comes to Gator loyalty, don't mess with the Schrader family.

UF love runs deep in this family. Pasco Commissioner Ted Schrader went to school there, as did his wife, his brothers and his children.

In fact, his son, 21-year-old Teddy, was on his way back to the University of Florida after his recent Gasparilla weekend in Tampa. Teddy and his fraternity brothers had no idea what they'd be facing on I-75 as they approached Gainesville early Sunday morning.

Thick fog and heavy smoke blanketed the interstate, and it was closed briefly. But, then, it was opened back up... some say it was too soon.

Teddy and his friends found themselves face to face with brake lights, fighting for their lives. They were all wearing their seatbelts.

Commissioner Schrader told us, "Being 21 and 22 years old, is certainly very young to witness something such as that and see victims sprawled out on the highway and they mayhem that occurred."

Teddy and his schoolmates were riding in an Infiniti sedan when they came upon what some drivers describe as "armageddon." It was a scene out of a horror movie, bodies on the interstate, cars on top of each other and people screaming.

All of a sudden in the darkness and fog, Teddy and his buddies saw brake lights from a tractor trailer.

It was too late.

The young men would clip the edge of the semi, ripping a gash in the side of their car. When they finally came to a stop, they had run off the road. The driver's forehead was sliced open, and they were all traumatized.

Schrader said, "It's gonna take some time for them to heal mentally, if at all. I'm sure it's been a life changing experience for them."

Commissioner Schrader and his wife were in church when they got the call. Their reaction was bittersweet. They were heartbroken for the families who lost a loved but, but at the same time, relieved that Teddy and his friends were alright.

But the Schraders still had one big question: why is it that when the young men tried to get off of an exit in Micanopy, they were they told to get right back on the interstate?

The students say they wanted to get out of the fog, when they were told to go right back in it. Troopers told the UF students that the local traffic was too heavy, so the young men got back on I-75.

"By the grace of God, they made it," said Commissioner Schrader.

So, how can you protect yourself?

Luis Carbonell is a longtime driving instructor who tell us, "You're gonna see the cloud, you're gonna see the smoke and fog, so pull over to one side."

Carbonell has been teaching safe driving at The Tampa Area Safety Council for more than a decade. He teaches his students who attend classes at the non profit that's been around for 60 years to always pull over in dangerous and dense fog.

However, for the 10 people who were on I-75 early Sunday morning, it was simply too late.

Governor Rick Scott has called for an investigation into FHP's decision to reopen I-75.

 More on the deadly I-75 pile-up:

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