By MARY SELL, Alabama Daily News
State law enforcement continues to investigate a multi-vehicle wreck Saturday on I-65 in Butler County that killed 10, most of them children.
The initial cause of the wreck has been attributed to rain and wet conditions from Tropical Depression Claudette.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency on Saturday evening asked for the public’s help gathering information on the wreck. Anyone with photos or videos from the scene is asked to submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org or share via social media @aleaprotects.
“(Saturday) was an extremely heartbreaking day for the state of Alabama as 10 lives were tragically lost in one horrific event,” ALEA’s Secretary of Law Enforcement Hal Taylor said in a written statement. “I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the friends and families of loved ones lost in Saturday’s terrible crash, as well as my gratitude to all of the first responders and volunteers who quickly and valiantly responded to the scene. It was a difficult and unimaginable scene for many, and our thoughts and prayers are with all involved as we continue to investigate and provide closure for those affected.”
The wreck involved 17 vehicles, including a van containing children ages 4 to 17, belonging to the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a youth home operated by the Alabama Sheriffs Association. Michael Smith, the youth ranches CEO, said the van was heading back to the ranch near Camp Hill, northeast of Montgomery, after a week at the beach in Gulf Shores. It caught fire after the wreck and Candice Gulley, the ranch director, was the van’s only survivor — pulled from the flames by a bystander.
Fatalities also include a 3-year-old, 8-year-old, 12-year-old,14-year-old, 15-year-old, two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old. All of the juveniles were from Alabama and were pronounced deceased at the scene, ALEA said.
Cody Fox, 29, of New Hope, Tenn., and his 9-month-old daughter, also of New Hope, Tenn., were pronounced deceased at the scene.
Gulley remained hospitalized Sunday in Montgomery in serious but stable condition. Two of the dead in the van were Gulley’s children, Smith said.
“Words cannot explain what I saw,” Smith said of the accident site, which he visited Saturday. He had returned from Gulf Shores in a separate van and did not see the crash when it happened.
ALEA said the National Transportation Safety Board has sent agents to assist in the crash investigation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.