UPDATE, 6 p.m: Florida Highway Patrol has released the names of the seven people killed in a multiple-vehicle crash on Interstate 75 Thursday.
The five children killed were Joel Cloud, 14; Jeremiah Warren, 14; Cierra Bordelan, 9; Cara Descant, 13; and Brieana Descant, 10, FHP said. The children were from Marksville, Louisiana. They were passengers in a Chevy van.
Steve Holland, 59, of West Palm Beach, and Douglas Bolkema, 49, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, were the drivers of the semi-trucks involved in the crash.
Holland, who was the driver of the truck that started the crash, has received eight traffic citations in Palm Beach County since 2003, according to court records. One was issued for careless driving.
None of the fatalities were alcohol related, authorities said. It’s unknown if the children had seatbelts or child restraints on.
Eight others involved in the crash were injured and taken to local hospitals, according to authorities.
Karen Descant, 50, of Marksville, who was also in the van, is in critical condition, authorities said. Six other van passengers are in serious condition:
Amy Joffrion, 45, of Mansura, Louisiana
Noah Joffrion, 14, of Mansura
Ali Laborde, 30, of Marksville
Chelsea Laborde, 11, of Marksville
Trinity Woodward, 9, of Hessmer, Louisiana
Chance Bernard, 9, of Hessmer
Robyn Rattray, 41, the driver of the first vehicle hit by the semi-truck, is in serious condition, authorities said.
Mark Houghtaling, 61, who was in a Chevy pickup that hit at least one ejected passenger of the van, did not sustain any injuries, authorities said. Houghtaling declined The Alligator’s request to comment.
Highway patrol is investigating the crash.
Original story: Five children heading to Walt Disney World were among seven people killed in a crash on Interstate 75 north of Gainesville Thursday afternoon.
The children — who were from Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, and whose ages ranged from 8 years old to teenage years — were in a passenger van. Two male semi-truck drivers were also killed, said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan at a press conference Friday.
The highway patrol is focused on notifying the family of the victims in-person, Riordan said.
FHP press conference on I 75 crash. https://t.co/iNuhjUo5Sl
— Katherine W-F (@katwf98) January 4, 2019
The last crash that had a similar amount of deaths in that area was in 2012, he said. Ten people had died and 18 were injured, according to Alligator archives.
After the crash Thursday, eight people were taken to hospitals with multiple serious injuries, according to the Alachua County Fire Rescue.
The victims, both adults and children, were taken to local hospitals and their conditions are unknown, Riordan said.
About an hour after the crash, the UF Health emergency response mass casualty plan was activated, UF Health spokesperson Rossana Passaniti wrote in an email. Six people were taken to UF Health Shands Trauma Center.
“It’s a heartbreaking event,” Riordan said. “We have our command staff and our victims advocate that are going to be going to the hospital and meeting with some of the victims’ families this morning.”
At about 3:40 p.m., a semi-truck was going Northbound on Interstate 75, according to the FHP. The semi-truck hit a vehicle going North. The cause of this, which began the crash, is still under investigation.
After the initial crash Northbound, both vehicles went through the guardrail in the center median and into the Southbound lanes, where two other vehicles were hit while they traveled South, according to FHP.
As the semi-truck went into the Southbound lanes, it hit the passenger van with children inside and another semi-truck, authorities said. The van overturned, ejecting some passengers, and both semi-trucks caught on fire.
There was a fifth vehicle involved in the crash that either struck some of the ejected occupants or the debris on the roadway, Riordan said.
Fifty gallons of diesel fuel spilled onto the highway causing a fire, which was put out, the Alachua County Fire Rescue said.
All Northbound lanes and two Southbound lanes are open, according to the Gainesville Transportation Management Center.
UPDATE: #I75 MM 393 vehicle crash. At MM 393 (3 miles North of 39th Ave, 6 miles South of US 441 Alachua), Soutbound inside/middle lanes are OPEN. SB outside lane is still closed. Proceed with caution when entering the area. AJE pic.twitter.com/lUMpx9bX6u
— Gainesville, FL Transportation Management Center (@GACSmartTraffic) January 4, 2019
Because of damage to the roadway, FHP said to prepare for delays.
This is a breaking news story. Check back for updates.