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Nine children and one adult are killed in Alabama crash

The US Flag flies at half mast Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Camp Hill, Ala., at the Alabama Sheriff's Girls Ranch which suffered a loss of life when their van was involved in a multiple vehicle accident Saturday, resulting in eight people in the van perishing.
The US Flag flies at half mast Sunday, June 20, 2021, in Camp Hill, Ala., at the Alabama Sheriff's Girls Ranch which suffered a loss of life when their van was involved in a multiple vehicle accident Saturday, resulting in eight people in the van perishing.Vasha Hunt/Associated Press

Nine children and one adult were killed in Alabama on Saturday afternoon when a van of children returning from a beach vacation and an SUV collided and the van burst into flames, authorities said.

The van, owned by the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranch, and the SUV 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 Sunday. “Candice was pulled from the vehicle, and there was a fire, and all eight children died at the scene.”

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The children were between 4 and 17 years old, Smith said. The Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranch is a nonprofit that provides “Christian, family-style residential homes” for children in crisis, according to its website.

Sheriff Danny Bond of Butler County confirmed that 10 people were killed. Two were in the SUV, Wayne Garlock, the Butler County coroner, said Sunday. He identified them as Cody Fox, 29, of Marion County, Tennessee; and his 9-month-old daughter, Ariana, who Garlock said was in a child seat. Officials were waiting until relatives were notified before releasing the names of the children who were killed in the van, Garlock said.

Bond said Sunday that the crash was the worst he had responded to in his more than 30 years in law enforcement.

Bond said 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.

He could not say if the weather had contributed to the crash. Garlock, who is also a paramedic and responded to the crash scene, said there were indications that another vehicle had hydroplaned and caused a pileup involving several vehicles. The sequence of events was not clear, he said.

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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.