SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla.- A crash involving 47 cars had a North Port couple caught in the middle of it all Friday afternoon. I-75 opened just before 11 p.m. Friday, more than six hours after it's believed a torrential downpour lead to a chain reaction car crash.
It was a 47 car pileup that sent more than 50 people to area hospitals in Sarasota and Manatee counties. The crash happened in the southbound lanes of I-75 at mile marker 213, right at the Sarasota-Manatee county line at the overpass of University Parkway.
"We were going south and we come up over the overpass and the cars are all sliding and stopping in front of us and there was nothing I could do so we just slid right into them," said Bob Sipkema, from North Port.
On their way home to North Port Friday afternoon, Bob and Mary Sipkema had a split second to react as they drove into a massive 47 car pileup.
"It was horrible. It was about three seconds, I was going about 60, I probably slowed it down to about 35 40 on impact and all I could do is see the cars in front of me, I hollered to Mary right before we're going to crash. Before I even got out of the car I said are you ok, are you ok and she was ok and then my next thing was to get her out in case there was fire," said Sipkema.
Their truck slammed into another car and became one of more than a dozen crashes.
"Tonight when we go to sleep I'm sure we'll have a lot of reflections of how bad it could have been so we're just fortunate that it was as bad as it could have been," said Sipkema.
Upwards of 20 emergency crews from Sarasota and Manatee counties responded. In all, more than 50 people were taken to area hospitals. Two of those were transported by BayFlight with non-life threating injuries.
"I've been on the department for 23 years and I've never been on a scene where there has been this many, you know, cars involved in an accident," said Captain Susan Pearson, Sarasota County Fire Department.
"I'll never buy a compact car after that. It'll be a big car or it will be a bigger truck. If we were driving something small, we wouldn't be alive. It hit that hard," said Mary Sipkema.
"You never know in life what's around the next corner so always be prepared," said Bob Sipkema.
The Florida Highway Patrol says they're investigating more than a dozen crashes out of this giant crash but they expect that number to go up in the coming days.