Five of the seven fatalities in a fiery crash on a Florida highway were children who were likely on their way to Disney World, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan said Friday.
The other two killed were men driving semi-trucks, Riordan told reporters in a news conference.
The multivehicle crash happened Thursday afternoon on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, Florida, according to authorities.
The children who died were traveling in a passenger van from Avoyelles House of Mercy Church in Louisiana and ranged in age from 8 years old to teenagers, according to First Coast News in Jacksonville.
Riordan said preliminary information indicates that a tractor trailer and a car traveling northbound on I-75 collided with each other and went through a guardrail, entering the southbound lanes. Those two vehicles then struck a large passenger van and another semi-truck. A fifth vehicle also struck some of the occupants or debris in the roadway, Riordan said.
A photo posted by the Alachua County Fire Rescue showed a tractor-trailer in flames with a vehicle under its left side.
As many as eight others were hurt, the lieutenant said. Some of the patients transported from the scene have critical injuries, according to the fire and medical service.
A homicide investigation is underway, Riordan said.
The FHP will issue a detailed statement on the accident later Friday after the families of the victims have been notified.
Senator Bill Cassidy confirmed in a Tweet on his official account that the five children were members of the Avoyelles House of Mercy Church.
“A devastating tragedy for the #Marksville community. Our prayers and support are with #Avoyelles House of Mercy Church & everyone affected,” Cassidy said.
A volunteer at the church said, "We have lost half of our babies." Just heartbreaking. Psalm 34:18 https://t.co/EwUMO84MoT
— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@SenBillCassidy) January 4, 2019