June 20 (UPI) — Nine children and one adult were killed in a multi-vehicle pileup in Alabama amid a tropical storm in the area.
A father and his 9-month-old daughter were killed in one vehicle and the eight other victims who died were in a bus carrying girls housed at Girls Ranch, a foster home for girls from abusive or abandonment situations.
Cody Fox, 29, and Ariana Fox were identified as the victims in a small SUV traveling from Marion County, Tenn. The identities of the girls in the Girls Ranch vehicle were not released as many were under the care of the state but Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock said they ranged in age from 4 to 17.
“Our hearts are heavy today. Our ranch has suffered great loss. As some of you may have heard, one of our ranch vehicles was involved in a multiple car accident this afternoon. Please send prayers our way as we navigate this difficult time,” Girls Ranch wrote on Facebook.
A bystander pulled the driver of the Girls Ranch bus from the vehicle but was unable to go back for the children, said Garlock.
“It was too late to get back to them because the bus was engulfed in fire,” Garlock said.
Garlock said the crash was likely caused by hydroplaning due to storms on Saturday as Claudette, which was downgraded from a tropical storm to a tropical depression, doused the area with heavy rains and strong winds.
Butler County Sheriff Danny Bond said the crash involved a total of 18 vehicles, including two 18-wheelers, and as many as five other people sustained nonfatal injuries.
“This was probably the most horrific accident in Butler County history,” said Bond.
The crash forced both the northbound and southbound lanes of 1-65 to be closed, with parts of the interstate reopening early Sunday morning.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency has asked the public to share photos and videos related to the crash as it investigates the cause of the wreck.