10 People, Including 9 Children, Are Killed in Alabama Van Crash

Eight of the children who died were returning from a beach vacation. A sheriff said the crash, which came as Tropical Depression Claudette plowed through the region, was the worst he’d seen in 30 years.


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Nine children and one adult were killed in Alabama on Saturday afternoon when a van of children returning from a beach vacation and a sport-utility vehicle collided, and the van burst into flames, the authorities said.

The van, owned by the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranch, and the S.U.V. collided on Interstate 65 in Fort Deposit, Ala., said Michael Smith, the chief executive of the organization.

Nine people were in the van: five girls, three boys and the driver, Candice Gulley, who survived.

“They were on their way back from the beach,” Mr. 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 crash occurred as Tropical Depression Claudette tore through the region. In Tuscaloosa County, a man and his 3-year-old son were killed when a tree fell on their mobile home.

The children who were killed in the crash were between 4 and 17 years old, Mr. Smith said. The Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranch is a nonprofit organization that provides “Christian, family-style residential homes” for children in crisis, according to its website.

Sheriff Danny Bond of Butler County confirmed that a total of 10 people were killed. Two were in the S.U.V., Wayne Garlock, the Butler County coroner, said in an interview on Sunday. He identified them as Cody Fox, 29, of Marion County, Tenn., and his 9-month-old daughter, Ariana, who Mr. Garlock said was in a child seat. Officials were waiting until relatives were notified before releasing the names of the children who were killed in the van, Mr. Garlock said.

Sheriff Bond said in an interview on Sunday that the crash was the worst he had responded to in his more than 30 years in law enforcement.

“It is traumatic whenever you pull up on a scene like this knowing that you’re dealing with children,” he said. “It’s always worse on your first responders. It was a tough day.”

Sheriff Bond said that both vehicles were traveling north on the interstate when the crash happened, and that it had been raining on and off. Tropical Depression Claudette had been moving through the region.

The sheriff said that the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency would determine the cause of the crash, which happened about 35 miles south of Montgomery.

He could not say if the weather had contributed to the crash. Mr. Garlock, who is also a paramedic and responded to the crash scene, said there were preliminary indications that another vehicle had hydroplaned and caused a pileup involving several vehicles. The sequence of events was not immediately clear, he said.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.

The National Transportation Safety Board said on Sunday that it would send a team of 10 investigators to Alabama as part of an inquiry into the crash.

Mr. Garlock said that he transported the 9-month-old girl to the hospital before she died. He said that some of the other children who died had been in the custody of the Alabama Department of Human Resources, complicating the process of notifying their relatives.

On Sunday, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama expressed her sorrow 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 home 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 who perished during the storm in Butler & Tuscaloosa counties. Let’s keep these families, communities & first responders lifted in prayer.”

Ms. Gulley was in serious but stable condition in a hospital in Montgomery, Mr. Smith said. She is the director of Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, one of the organization’s ranches.

“We will get through this tragedy and continue to help children, but never ever forget the children we lost,” Mr. Smith said.

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