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Skyway wreck witness: ‘It looked like a demolition derby’

December 29, 1996

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) _ Through the thick fog, Kathy Giller couldn’t believe the mayhem in front of her on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

``It looked like a demolition derby ... cars, trucks and everything else heading in every way,″ she said.

The 54-vehicle chain-reaction pileup Friday killed one person and injured 25 others, and shut down traffic for seven hours on the span over Tampa Bay.

``Nearly all of it was because of speed too fast for conditions,″ Highway Patrol Lt. Harry Mofield said Saturday, noting visibility was less than a quarter mile. ``All of them said they were just flying through that fog.″

The eight-mile suspension bridge, which connects St. Petersburg with Bradenton, is used by 14,000 motorists a day. The accident happened shortly before noon within a one-mile stretch on both the north and south lanes where the bridge rises more than 1,200 feet above the water.

Mrs. Giller and her husband, Roger, were on their way to celebrate their wedding anniversary when they came upon the pile of cars and trucks.

``They were swerving everywhere, spinning around, swerving from one side to the other trying to avoid each other,″ she said.

Another witness, Bert McClain, said he wasn’t going too fast.

``You just got too close too quick and there was nothing you could do,″ he said. ``As quick as it happened, it was over.″

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