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Community mourns nine children and a father who died in Alabama highway crash

An Alabama community mourned on Sunday (June 20) the tragic deaths of nine children and a young father who were killed over the weekend in a multi-car crash during Tropical Storm Claudette. 

A nine-month-old girl and her 29-year-old father died in the Saturday afternoon pileup of about 18 vehicles, including an Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches vehicle carrying eight other children aged 4 to 17, who were killed, Butler County Sheriff Danny Bond said. 

The ranch is home to “Alabama’s needy, neglected, or abused, school-aged children,” according to its website. 

On Sunday, community members gathered at a nearby high school to remember the victims. 

Michael Smith, chief executive of the non-profit Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches, found comfort in his faith. 

“I’ll tell you what I do know. Those children are in a much better place. They’re with God cause they all love God,” Smith said. 

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Sunday it would investigate the crash. 

Disaster struck as the ranch’s 15-passenger van was returning from a beach vacation. Killed were four girls who lived at the ranch, Tallapoosa Ranch director Candice Gulley’s son and daughter and two boys who were their guests. 

The van was driven by Gulley, the only survivor, who suffered serious injuries and was later hospitalized, said Smith. 

Local media reported that bystanders pulled her from the wreckage unconscious. 

(Production: Arlene Eiras)

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