Nine children and one adult were killed in Alabama on Saturday afternoon when a van of children returning from a beach vacation and a car collided and the van burst into flames, authorities said.
The van, owned by the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranch, and the car collided on Interstate 65 in Fort Deposit, Alabama, said Michael Smith, chief executive of the organization.
Nine people were in the van: five girls; three boys; and the driver, Candice Gulley, who survived.
“They were on their way back from the beach,” Smith said in an interview Sunday. “Candice was pulled from the vehicle, and there was a fire, and all eight children died at the scene.”
The children were between 4 and 17 years old, Smith said. The Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranch is a nonprofit organization that provides “Christian, family-style residential homes” for children in crisis, according to its website.
Sheriff Danny Bond of Butler County confirmed that a total of 10 people were killed. A man and a 9-month-old girl in the car died in the crash, AL.com reported.
Bond said in an interview Sunday that the crash was the worst he had responded to in his more than 30 years in law enforcement.
“It is traumatic whenever you pull up on a scene like this knowing that you’re dealing with children,” Bond said. “It’s always worse on your first responders. It was a tough day.”
Bond said that both vehicles were traveling north on the interstate when the crash happened and that it had been raining on and off. Tropical Depression Claudette had been moving through the region.
The sheriff said that the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency would determine the cause of the crash, which happened about 35 miles south of Montgomery.
He could not say if the weather contributed to the crash when asked if the vehicles had hydroplaned, which is what the county’s coroner told The Associated Press.
The coroner and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency did not immediately respond to requests for comment Sunday.
On Sunday, Gov. Kay Ivey of Alabama expressed her sorrow over the crash and two storm-related deaths in Tuscaloosa County. A 24-year-old man and his 3-year-old son were killed when a tree fell on their home Saturday night, The Tuscaloosa News reported.
“Yesterday was a tragic day for our state,” Ivey said on Twitter. “My heart goes out to the loved ones of all who perished during the storm in Butler & Tuscaloosa counties. Let’s keep these families, communities & first responders lifted in prayer.”
Gulley was in serious but stable condition in a hospital in Montgomery, Smith said. She is director of Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, one of the organization’s ranches.
“We will get through this tragedy and continue to help children, but never ever forget the children we lost,” Smith said.This article originally appeared in The New York Times.