The church van packed with children was headed south — with just an hour to go before reaching Walt Disney World after a 700-mile trip from Louisiana — when it got caught in a fiery pileup involving two 18-wheelers that killed seven people, including five of the youngsters.
On Friday, investigators were trying to determine what triggered the accident the previous afternoon on Interstate 75 near Gainesville. The crash happened in clear weather on a straight, flat stretch of highway.
The Florida Highway Patrol said that two vehicles traveling north — a tractor-trailer and a car — smashed into each other and then burst through a metal guardrail, slamming into the van carrying the children and another semitruck. Diesel fuel leaked and the mass erupted in a fireball. A fifth car, unable to avoid the chaos, sped through, possibly hitting victims ejected from the vehicles, the Highway Patrol said. This is a fatal car accident that may have been able to be avoided.
Five of the children, ranging from 9 to 14 years old — from a Pentecostal church in Marksville, Louisiana — and the two truck drivers died. At least eight others were injured, some seriously.
The semitruck drivers were identified as Steve Holland, 59, of West Palm Beach, and Douglas Bolkema, 49, of Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The Louisiana District United Pentecostal Church International has set up a fund for monetary donations for the Marksville church and families affected by the tragic accident. Donations and contributions can be made online or by mail to P. O. Box 248, Tioga, LA 71477.
Our firm is dedicated to representing the families of tragic fatal crashes such as this. We pray for the families of those that lost their loved ones.
Alex R. Hernandez Jr. PLLC Personal Injury Law Firm