A church van taking several Louisiana children and adults to Disney World was struck by a tractor-trailer Thursday, Jan. 3, near Gainesville, Florida, killing five children and two adults and injuring several others.
Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Patrick Riordan said the crash occurred in the southbound lanes of I-75 Thursday afternoon when a tractor-trailer traveling on I-75 northbound collided with a car. The collision sent both northbound vehicles across the median into the southbound lanes and into the path of another tractor-trailer and the church van.
The crash left a mass of flaming wreckage on I-75. Both tractor-trailer drivers were killed in addition to the five Disney-bound children in the church van. At least eight others were injured, either critically or seriously, according to People.
According to People, the Florida Highway Patrol identified the five children who were killed as Joel Cloud, 14, Jeremiah Warren, 14, Cierra Bordelan, 9, Cara Descant, 13, and Brieana Descant, 10. Three adults and nine children were traveling in the church van, which belonged to the Avoyelles House of Mercy in Marksville, Louisiana.
Authorities identified the two tractor-trailer drivers who were killed as Douglas Bolkea, 49, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Steve Holland, 59, of West Palm Beach.
Another driver, Robyn Rattray, 41, of Gainesville, Florida, was seriously injured in the crash. Mark Houghtaling, 61, of Gainesville, was also among the drivers involved in the collision. He survived without physical injury.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the chain-reaction crash started about 3:40 p.m. when Mr. Holland’s tractor-trailer veered into the lane to his left, striking Ms. Rattray’s Honda and sending both vehicles through the center median into the southbound traffic lanes. Mr. Holland’s truck collided with the church van, which flipped several times.
Florida authorities investigating the crash said it’s uncertain at this time if the occupants of the church van were wearing seatbelts. Some of the people in the church van were ejected and struck by other vehicles, investigators said.