Seven people died when a crash involving four vehicles prompted a diesel fuel spill that sparked a fire on Interstate 75 in Alachua County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
The two northbound vehicles crossed into the southbound lanes and collided with another tractor-trailer and the church van, leaving a mass of flaming wreckage, Riordan told a press briefing near the scene.
The driver of both semis, 59-year-old Steve Holland of West Palm Beach, Florida, and Douglas Bolkema of Albuquerque, New Mexico, were killed.
Riordan said the van was heading south from Avoyelles Parish, in the Marksville area of central eastern Louisiana.
He said a fifth vehicle came through and either struck people who had been ejected from the vehicle or debris.
The deaths are considered traffic homicides, a highway patrol spokesperson said.
Trooper say both semi trucks caught fire.
Fifty gallons of diesel fuel spilled in the crash, causing a blaze that has since been extinguished.
Officials say along with the five children killed, two adults also died.
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Karen Descant, wife of pastor Eric Descant, suffered seven broken ribs and a broken collarbone, Kevin Cox, superintendent for the United Pentecostal Church's Louisiana district, said in a statement on Facebook. Two truck drivers and five of the youngsters died in the crash.
The crash closed part of the highway in both directions and caused massive delays.
"It's pretty bad, in a system as small as us, it hits you hard, it really affects you", said Dauzat, head of the 5,300-student school system that's 160 miles northwest of New Orleans.
"She too is pretty banged up", he said Friday.
At The Chapel Ministry, pastors Angela and Danny Hargrove said they opened up the church on Friday so that people could gather, and mourn; during Sunday's service they prayed for the dead children and their families.
The northbound lanes of the interstate reopened on Friday and one southbound lane is now open. "The guardrails are there to stop as much as they can", Roberts said.
Flames engulf vehicles after a fiery crash along Interstate 75, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019, about a mile south of Alachua, near Gainesville, Fla. 'The heat, it was insane'.
The nature of the crash scene could complicate the investigation.
Eventually, cameras, sensors and large electronic message signs around Paynes Prairie were installed and created to prevent such crashes in the future, part of a $2 million project to improve safety following the 2012 crashes.
The Vancouver area has seen the majority of incidents, although deaths have occurred in Calgary and Cambridge, Ont. The video will reportedly be sent out to all the charities using the bins as soon as it is complete.
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