A multiple-vehicle accident along Alabama Interstate 65 in Butler County has left nine children and one adult dead.
According to Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock, eight of the children were between the ages of 4 to 17. They rode in a vehicle from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a youth ranch that provides housing for neglected or abused school-age children. It is managed by the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches, a nonprofit that manages youth homes across the state.
A 29-year-old father and his 9-month old daughter were also killed in the crash, CNN reported.
The multiple car crash occurred on Saturday afternoon during storms that swept through Alabama. Tropical Storm Claudette dumped heavy amounts of rain.
A CNN producer apparently witnessed the accident while driving home to Georgia and says at the time of the crash, “it wasn’t downpouring. However, there was still a lot of water on the road.
The witness, Lacey Willis, had just climbed into the backseat of her car while her husband drove. She felt an impact from the car hitting a guard rail, setting off their airbags and sending them into the grass on the median.
She grabbed her daughter from the car immediately and walked away from the accident scene when she noticed other vehicles catching on fire.
“I’m barefoot, standing on I-65, walking, walking far enough away,” she said. “I was just praying.”
People started yelling for someone to call for help, but no one knew the mile marker they were at. “There was a man without a shirt on,” she said. “He was yelling — looking for nurses, doctors.”
Willis’s family stayed at the crash scene for five hours, while some people remained stuck on the side of the road because their cars were on fire.
Willis said she was “very grateful” that her family was able to “escape” but acknowledged “there’s a little guilt aspect.”
“Those families’ lives are changed forever, and I hope that somehow people will find a way to be OK,” she continued. “Because this was tragic for a lot of people. We are very, very fortunate.”
The girls’ ranch bus driver was pulled from the burning vehicle, but unfortunately, the girls could not be reached in time.