Five children from a Louisiana church group believed to be on their way to Disney World were among seven people killed during a fiery Florida interstate crash, state highway patrol has confirmed.
Two big rigs and two passenger vehicles collided and spilled diesel fuel across a Florida highway Thursday, sparking a massive fire that killed seven people and injured at least eight others, authorities said.
The ages of the dead children range between eight and teenage years, the police said. They were from a Louisiana church group called Avoyelles Parish, according to Fox News.
The authorities are treating the crash as a homicide investigation, though it remains unclear the reasons why.
The wreck happened on southbound Interstate 75 about a mile (1.6 kilometers) south of Alachua, near Gainesville. The flames were fed by about 50 gallons (189 liters) of diesel, authorities said.
A spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol told The Associated Press in a phone interview that their top priorities were to conduct a thorough investigation and to identify the deceased.
“There’s going to be families that need to be notified that their loves ones have perished,” said Lieutenant Patrick Riordan.
It was the worst accident on I-75 in Alachua county since January 2012, when 11 people died in a chain reaction crash attributed to heavy fog and smoke on the roadway, which crosses Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park.
Officials were criticized then for not closing the road due to worsening conditions, and later installed cameras, sensors and large electronic signs to help prevent similar crashes.
Following the crash, officials at the time installed cameras, sensors and large electronic signs to prevent crashes like that from ever happening again.