Nine children, one adult killed in Alabama fiery highway crash, US
Nine children and a young father were killed when a van and 17 other vehicles were involved in a major pile-up in the storm-hit US state of Alabama on Saturday, 19 June 2021, during Tropical Storm Claudette. A nine-month-old girl and her 29-year-old father died in the pileup of about 18 vehicles, including an Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches vehicle carrying eight other children aged four to 17, who were killed, Butler County Sheriff Danny Bond said. Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock has said the children's ages ranged from nine months to 17 years old. Tropical Depression Claudette has caused flash flooding and tornadoes, destroying dozens of homes in Alabama.
Coroner Garlock said a father and nine-month-old girl died in one of the cars. He said the vehicles were likely to have hydroplaned on the wet roads and lost control. The accident occurred at about 14h45 on a downhill stretch leading to a bridge over a creek.
The father killed with his baby daughter was driving a car in which the mother and others did not suffer major injuries, Bond said. About five other people were hurt in the crash but none of the injuries were critical, Bond said.
The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch’s 15-passenger van was returning from a beach vacation, driven by Tallapoosa Ranch director Candice Gulley, the only survivor aboard, who suffered serious injuries and was later hospitalised, said Michael Smith, chief executive of the nonprofit organisation.
Killed were four girls who lived at the ranch, Gulley's son and daughter and two boys who were their guests. The youngest was four years old. A bystander pulled the bus driver to safety and then tried to rescue the children, however the bus was already engulfed in smoke and flames.
The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch is a foster home for abandoned, neglected or abused girls
Highway 65 between Greenville and Fort Deposit in Alabama was closed in both directions for some time after the crash.
Tropical Depression Claudette has caused flash flooding and tornadoes, destroying dozens of homes in Alabama.
The cause of the crash on Interstate Highway 65 between Greenville and Fort Deposit, which was awash from the powerful storm, was under investigation.
Butler County Sheriff Bond said, "This is the worst accident in our county history," Bond told Reuters.
The weakening storm was classified on Sunday as Tropical Depression Claudette, according to the National Weather Service. It headed away from Alabama after shattering rainfall records in several cities and being blamed for an additional two deaths after a tree fell on a rain-drenched home outside Tuscaloosa on Saturday, local media reported.
The National Transportation Safety Board was sending 10 investigators to the site.
A 24-year-old man and three-year-old boy were also killed in Alabama on Saturday when a tree fell on their house, just outside the city of Tuscaloosa.
A search is also underway for a man in Birmingham, Alabama who may have been swept away in flood waters.
Sources: Reuters, BBC, ABC News