Nine children and an adult were killed in Alabama on Saturday afternoon when a van of children returning from a beach vacation and a car collided and the van caught fire, authorities said.
The pickup truck, owned by the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranch, and the car collided on Interstate 65 in Fort Deposit, Alabama, said Michael Smith, chief executive of the organization.
Nine people were in the van: five girls, three boys and the driver, Candice Gulley, who survived.
“They were coming back from the beach,” Smith said in an interview on Sunday. “Candice was pulled from the vehicle and there was a fire, and all eight children died at the scene. “
The children were between 4 and 17 years old, Smith said. The Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranch is a non-profit organization that provides “family-style Christian residential homes” to children in crisis, according to its website.
Butler County Sheriff Danny Bond confirmed that a total of 10 people were killed. A man and a 9-month-old girl in the car died in the crash, AL.com reported.
Sheriff Bond said in an interview on Sunday that the crash was the worst he responded to in more than 30 years of law enforcement.
“It’s traumatic every time you walk into a scene like this knowing you’re dealing with children,” Sheriff Bond said. “It’s always worse for your first responders. It was a difficult day.
Sheriff Bond said the two vehicles were traveling north on the freeway when the crash happened and it rained intermittently. The tropical depression Claudette had crossed the region.
The sheriff said the Alabama law enforcement agency would determine the cause of the crash, which occurred about 35 miles south of Montgomery.
He could not say whether the weather conditions contributed to the crash when asked if the vehicles had hydroplaned, which the county coroner told The Associated Press.
The Alabama Coroner and Law Enforcement Agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Sunday expressed sadness over the crash and two storm-related deaths in Tuscaloosa County. A 24-year-old man and his 3-year-old son were killed when a tree fell on their house on Saturday night, The Tuscaloosa News reported.
“Yesterday was a tragic day for our state,” Ms. Ivey said on Twitter. “My heart goes out to the loved ones of all those who perished in the storm in Butler and Tuscaloosa counties. Let us keep these families, communities and first responders raised in prayer. “
Ms Gulley was in serious but stable condition at a Montgomery hospital, Mr Smith said. She is the director of the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, one of the organization’s ranches.
“We will go through this tragedy and continue to help the children, but let us never forget the children we have lost,” said Smith.