A multivehicle crash in Alabama left 10 people dead Saturday, including 8 children traveling together in a foster home's bus as tropical depression Claudette tore through the South.
The crash was the result of a vehicle hydroplaning on a bridge on Interstate 65, causing a chain reaction that involved at least 15 vehicles, said the Butler County coroner in a statement posted by Jon Paepcke of WVTM 13 News. The bus carrying eight children, ages 4 to 17, from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a foster home, caught fire. A bystander was able to pull the driver out to safety but wasn't able to go back for the children.
“It was too late to get back to them because the bus was engulfed in fire,” Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock told AL.com.
Michael Smith, CEO of the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches, which operates the girls ranch in Camp Hill, Alabama, said the crash was a horrible tragedy.
"Our hearts are so heavy today. Our Ranch family has suffered a great loss," Smith said in a statement. "This morning, I have been thinking about how we do not always understand the reason things happen."
Several of the girls were under the custody of the Alabama Department of Human Resources, which oversees the state's foster care system.
"Our hearts ache for all the lives lost in this devastating accident. The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch gave these young girls the gift of hope and empowered them to overcome hardship," the department's commissioner, Nancy Buckner, said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "As we remember their lives and mourn their loss, we take some comfort in knowing their hearts were filled with the love, happiness and friendship all children deserve."
In addition to the ranch residents, the victims also included two guests and the ranch director's children, aged 4 and 16, the Associated Press reported. The ranch's director was the driver of the bus, and she is expected to survive her injuries, the AP reported.
A 9-month-old baby and her 29-year-old father, who were in an SUV, also died in the crash, the Butler County coroner said. The father, identified as Cody Fox, was pronounced dead at the scene, and the baby, Ariana Fox, was taken to Regional Medical Center of Greenville, where she was pronounced dead.
There were other injuries in the other vehicles, but none were life-threatening. The accident occurred near Fort Deposit, Alabama.
Butler County saw up to 2 inches of rain Saturday as the storm traveled through the region, according to the National Weather Service.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending 10 investigators to the scene who would review vehicles' forward collision warning systems as well as the fuel tank integrity of the bus.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is seeking assistance in gathering information on the crash and is asking the public to send photos and videos.