5 Kids Headed to Disney World Killed in Crash

Two adults also were killed on Florida highway
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 5, 2019 7:42 AM CST
5 Crash Victims Were Kids Headed to Disney World
This image taken from a Florida 511 traffic camera and provided by the Alachua County Fire Rescue shows a fiery crash along Interstate 75 Thursday.   (Alachua County Fire Rescue/Florida 511 via AP)

Details are emerging about a crash on a Florida highway that killed seven people, and one is especially wrenching: Five of those killed Thursday afternoon were kids headed to Disney World, reports the AP. The children had been in a church van that was caught in a fiery pileup involving two 18-wheelers. Investigators were still trying to determine what triggered the accident, which happened outside Gainesville in clear weather on a straight, flat stretch of Interstate 75, a busy highway that connects Florida to the rest of the South. Two vehicles traveling north—a tractor-trailer and a car—smashed into each other and then burst through a metal guardrail, slamming into another semitrailer and the southbound van carrying the children. Diesel fuel leaked, and the mass erupted into a fireball, the Florida Highway Patrol said.

A fifth car, unable to avoid the chaos, sped through and hit people who were thrown from the van, the highway patrol said. Five of the children from a Pentecostal church in Marksville, Louisiana, and the two truck drivers died. At least eight others were injured, some seriously. "It is a heartbreaking event," Lt. Patrick Riordan said Friday. He did not identify the church involved, but a member of the Avoyelles House of Mercy told the Gainesville Sun on Friday that her church was stunned. The children ranged in age from 9 to 14. "It's unbelievable. Everybody is in shock. We lost five of our children," church member Maxine Doughty said. "We had our Last Supper Sunday, and the pastor said to live our lives like each day is the last day." (In another car crash, a Good Samaritan who stopped ended up being killed.)

(Read more fatal car crashes stories.)

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