The church van headed south, packed with children, an hour to go before reaching Walt Disney World after a 700-mile trip from Louisiana. A semitruck rumbled nearby.
In Interstate 75’s northbound lanes Thursday afternoon near Gainesville, another semi and a car smashed into each other, the Florida Highway Patrol says. The velocity and weight of that now out-of-control semi burst through the metal guardrail, taking the car with it.
The two semis, the van, and the car slammed into each other, 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.
Five of the children, ranging from about 8 to teenagers — from a Pentecostal church in Marksville, Louisiana — and the two truck drivers died. At least eight others were injured, some seriously.