Cody Fox, 29, of New Hope, Tennessee, and his nine-month-old daughter were identified in a press release issued by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) on Sunday night.
The other victims of the crash were children between the ages of three and 17, who were traveling in a vehicle belonging to a ranch for neglected or abused school-aged children, authorities said.
The accident happened about 120 miles southwest of Camp Hill, Alabama, where the ranch is located.
“Yesterday was an extremely heartbreaking day for the State of Alabama as 10 lives were tragically lost in a horrific event,” said FTAA Law Enforcement Secretary Hal Taylor, in the press release. “It was a difficult and unimaginable scene for many, and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone involved as we continue to investigate and terminate those affected. “
Several vehicles involved in an accident
Heavy rain fell over the southeast on Saturday after a tropical depression known as Tropical Storm Claudette swept over southeastern Louisiana early that morning.
The fatal crash happened as storms swept through Alabama, according to Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock.
At least 17 vehicles, including two utility vehicles, were involved in the incident on I-65 northbound at kilometer 138, according to the FTAA statement.
Taylor of the FTAA said investigations like this are the most difficult part of the agency’s job.
“I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the friends and families of loved ones lost in Saturday’s terrible accident, as well as my gratitude to all of the first responders and volunteers who responded quickly and valiantly to the scene,” Taylor said.
Victims of the neglected and abused children’s home
Of the nine children killed in the crash, eight were in a vehicle at the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, according to Garlock.
The ranch provides a home for neglected or abused school-aged children, according to the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches, the nonprofit that runs the ranch and others across the state.
The ranch manager was the driver of the van and survived, according to Youth Ranches CEO Michael Smith, but she lost both of her children in the crash, he told CNN. The director is in the hospital “in serious but stable condition,” Smith said.
She was likely saved by passersby who pulled her out of the vehicle while she was unconscious and trapped inside, Smith said.
“His life was saved, and we are so blessed,” he said. “Unfortunately, we lost the other eight passengers. ”
“We have lost eight young people who can make a difference in our world, we have lost eight young people who were not fortunate enough to have their own children, we have lost eight young people who cannot break the cycle of their life . been and change it for their kids, ”Smith said. “It’s a sad day. ”
The victims were aged 3, 8, 12, 14, 15, 16 and 17, according to the FTAA, with two of the victims aged 16. The names of the children were not disclosed.
Although the names have not been made public, many people attended a vigil to pay their respects to the lost children on Sunday evening.
The school, religious leaders and the local community have come together at Reeltown High School to offer their support, principal Clifton Maddox told CNN.
The atmosphere in the gymnasium-turned-counseling center was muggy, with several people crying and many appearing shocked at the news of the incident.
Maddox told CNN the school was open to “show families and students that they don’t suffer alone.”
Four high school students who attended his school were killed in the incident, he said, although he refused to identify them citing the students’ privacy.
Witness describes fiery crash scene
Lacey Willis, a CNN producer, was caught in the pile-up as she returned to Atlanta from a family trip to the beach in Destin, Florida with her husband and 6-month-old daughter.
She said the weather had been bad about an hour before the accident. At the time of the sinking “there was no downpour” but there was still plenty of water on the road, Willis told CNN,
Willis was in the backseat of the car with her daughter when she felt an impact, she said. Their car had hit a railing, triggering the airbags and sending them through the grass on the median.
She grabbed her daughter and started to walk away from the crash when she noticed vehicles had started to catch fire.
“I’m barefoot, standing on I-65, I walk, I walk quite a distance,” she said. “I was just praying. “
Her husband began helping other victims involved in the multiple vehicle crash, pulling a family – a man, a woman and their two children -om a truck that had overturned on its side, he said. she declared.
People started calling someone to call 911, with a shirtless man yelling at nurses and doctors for help. No one knew what milepost they were at, Willis explained.
Willis and his family were stranded at the scene for five hours. Some people were stuck on the side of the road because their cars were on fire, she said.
Willis said she was “very grateful” that her family was able to “escape” but admitted “there is a little aspect of guilt”.
“The lives of these families are forever changed, and I hope that somehow people find a way to be okay,” she said. “Because it was tragic for a lot of people. We are very, very lucky. “
CNN’s Keith Allen, Hollie Silverman, Chuck Johnston and Deanna Hackney contributed to this report from Atlanta, with Greg Clary in Washington, DC, and Martin Savidge and Devon Sayers from Camp Hill, Alabama.