By KIM CHANDLER and JAY REEVES, Associated Press
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A crash that killed 10 people — including nine children — on a rain-slicked Alabama interstate happened after a tractor-trailer truck slammed into vehicles that had slowed down because of minor crashes, according to a preliminary report released Tuesday.
The National Highway Safety Board’s initial findings on the fiery June 19 crash that involved 12 vehicles present a chronology of events but don’t assign a cause or blame as the agency continues to investigate.
Eight of the victims were in a van from a youth home for abused or neglected children. The report said the van was hit by two commercial trucks. A Tennessee man and his baby in another vehicle were killed.
The report says a commercial truck hauling an empty trailer used for moving cars came upon a queue of traffic on Interstate 65 that had slowed and stopped because of earlier minor crashes. The commercial truck, operated by Hansen & Adkins, hit a 2020 Ford Explorer SUV before veering to the left and striking the youth home van.
The SUV overturned and struck several other vehicles in the line of stopped vehicles.
A tractor-trailer truck operated by Asmat Express then came upon the stopped vehicles, veered left, struck and mounted the bridge rail and then struck the van. The van and the truck came to rest in the median.
The multiple collisions caused a fire that burned the trucks, the van and three other vehicles, the report says.
Neither Hansen & Adkins, based in Los Alamitos, California; or Asmat Express, located in Clarkston, Georgia, responded to phone messages and emails seeking comment.
The report notes that the National Transportation Safety Board is still working on determining the probable cause of the crash “with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes.”
Four girls from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a home for abused and neglected children, were killed in the crash. The only survivor in the van was the home’s director, Candice Gulley, who was driving. Two of Gulley’s children and two of her nephews also died in the crash.
Gulley had taken the group to the Alabama coast for an annual trip sponsored by the girls ranch.
The pileup was the most devastating blow from a tropical depression that also claimed three other lives and destroyed dozens of homes in Alabama as it unleashed flash floods and spurred tornadoes.