Valdosta Daily Times

Local News

October 31, 2011

I-75 crash victims identified

Autopsy planned for Tuesday

VALDOSTA — Authorities on Sunday identified the two victims of a fiery Saturday crash on I-75 in Lowndes County.

Teresa Stopanio, 50, and her husband, Robert Stopanio, 48, of Reddick, Fla., near Ocala, were killed in the single-vehicle accident at the overpass for Exit 13, said Walter Wacter, Lowndes County’s deputy coroner. Mrs. Stopanio was driving the vehicle, he said.

An autopsy is planned for Tuesday, Wacter said. The bodies were “burned beyond recognition”  and are being sent to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Macon crime lab to determine if they were killed on impact or died from the fire or smoke inhalation.

Relatives of those who died in the wreck were nearby in a second vehicle which was pulled off to the side of the wreck scene — some crying, others staring silently.

A woman who said she was a relative of the Stopanios said it appeared the vehicle was sideswiped before slamming into a concrete support for an overpass bridge. The car then burst into flame.

The woman said motorists stopped and tried to put out the fire with extinguishers, but were unable to save the Stopanios.

The Lowndes County Fire Department extinguished the fire at the scene. Georgia State Patrol officers and investigators were examining the scene to determine the cause of

 the accident.

Southbound traffic on I-75 was slowed to a crawl with lanes blocked as a result of the wreck.

Many posters to The Times’ website offered their condolences, and others called for improved safety measures on the interstate.

The damage to the overpass was purely cosmetic and not structural, said Craig Solomon, communications officer for the Georgia Department of Transportation.

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