9 juveniles, 1 adult killed in Saturday’s ‘horrific’ I-65 crash in Butler County
BUTLER COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - More details are emerging about the fatal multi-vehicle crash that happened on Interstate 65 near Greenville Saturday afternoon.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock have confirmed 10 people were killed. Nine of them were juveniles.
WSFA 12 News has learned that eight of those juveniles were from an organization that helps abused and neglected children.
“This is probably the most horrific accident that I’ve ever seen,” said Butler County Sheriff Danny Bond.
The crash happened around 2:30 p.m. Saturday on I-65′s northbound side near mile marker 138, close to the Greenville exit.
ALEA says a total of 17 vehicles, including two commercial vehicles, were involved, with seven of those vehicles catching fire.
One of those vehicles was a van with eight children from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch. The organization says its mission is to offer a home to “Alabama’s needy, neglected, or abused, school-age children.”
Michael Smith, CEO of Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches, said the children were on their way back from a week away at Gulf Shores.
Smith said there were a total of nine people in the van. The only survivor was the ranch director, who is currently at a medical facility in unknown condition.
The victims from the ranch van were not identified by name. A statement from ALEA said the fatalities include a 3-year-old, 8-year-old, 12-year-old, 14-year-old, 15-year-old, two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old. All of them were from Alabama and were pronounced dead at the scene.
The other vehicle had a father and his infant daughter, who both died. State troopers and Garlock confirmed them to be Cody Fox, 29, and Ariana Fox, who was only 9 months old. They were from New Hope, Tennessee.
The Foxes’ deaths were also confirmed by the Marion County Emergency Management Agency in Tennessee, where a Facebook post states: “Words cannot express the grief I have felt since I received the call yesterday afternoon informing me of the death of Cody and his daughter in an automobile accident in southern Alabama. Cody was an integral part of the EMA staff in Marion County, always ready, always willing to serve. His upbeat attitude, his willingness to learn, and without a doubt the politest young man I have ever known, will be greatly missed. I offer my deepest prayers for his parents and family. He was a dedicated responder, a good son, a good brother, a good father and a good friend. I will miss him.”
The Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch released a statement on social media late Saturday saying “our ranch has suffered great loss.”
Reeltown High School also released a statement announcing a Sunday afternoon vigil “due to the tragic events involving the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, who are part of our Reeltown High School family...Please keep Tallapoosa Girls Ranch and the Reeltown family in your prayers!”
The cause of the wreck remains under investigation, but Garlock said Saturday’s weather and hydroplaning could have played a role.
“That particular area of the accident is prone to hydroplaning,” Garlock said.
ALEA is leading the investigation.
The National Transportation Safety Board said it is sending 10 investigators to coordinate with ALEA and look into the vehicle technologies, such as forward collision warning systems, CMV fuel tank integrity, motor carrier operations and occupant survivability.
The wreck was cleared with both northbound and southbound lanes reopening Sunday afternoon, almost 24 hours after the wreck.
SCENE PHOTOS OR VIDEOS
ALEA is asking for the public’s help gathering information and photos about Saturday’s crash. Anyone with photos or videos related to the crash is asked to submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org or share via social media @aleaprotects.
You can also submit photos to WSFA.com/submit.
PUBLIC OFFICAL STATEMENTS
Several Alabama leaders and lawmakers are expressing their condolences on social media.
“Yesterday was a tragic day for our state. My heart goes out to the loved ones of all who perished during the storm in Butler & Tuscaloosa counties. Let’s keep these families, communities & first responders lifted in prayer,” Gov. Kay Ivey said in a tweet. The Tuscaloosa County deaths were those of a 24-year-old and a 3-year-old.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville: “No words can comfort the families and loved ones of these children during this tragedy. My family, staff, and the people of Alabama are praying for peace and comfort for all affected during this unimaginable time.”
Rep. Barry Moore: “Heartbreaking. Heather and I are praying for the families who lost loved ones and a full recovery for those injured in the crash.”
Rep. Mo Brooks: “Martha and I are devastated to hear about the deadly wreck on I-65. We are praying for all involved, and ask that you do the same.”
Rep. Mike Rogers: “I am praying for the families of all the victims who were injured or killed in the tragic car wreck on I-65. It is devastating to hear that multiple victims were children from Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, which provides a home for neglected or abused school-age children.”
White House spokesman Ike Hajinazarian sent the following statement: “We’re mourning the tragic loss of life that occurred in yesterday’s accident in Butler County — and we join all Alabamians in praying for the loved ones of those impacted by this horrific incident. We’re continuing to monitor the severe weather impacting the Southeast, in contact with local officials, and stand ready to assist.”
ALEA’s secretary of law enforcement, Hal Taylor, also released a statement: “Investigating fatal crashes is one of the most difficult responsibilities of the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Yesterday, was an extremely heartbreaking day for the state of Alabama as 10 lives were tragically lost in one horrific event. I would like to offer my sincerest condolences to the friends and families of loved ones lost in Saturday’s terrible crash, as well as my gratitude to all of the first responders and volunteers who quickly and valiantly responded to the scene. It was a difficult and unimaginable scene for many, and our thoughts and prayers are with all involved as we continue to investigate and provide closure for those affected.”
Copyright 2021 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.