The accident, which occurred on Saturday, is “probably” linked to storm Claudette which ravaged several states in the southern United States, the Butler County medical examiner told AFP on Sunday.
The incident involved more than 15 vehicles traveling northbound on I-65 near Greenville and may have been due to aquaplaning, Garlock said.
Eight of the 10 people who died, all girls between the ages of 4 and 17, were in a vehicle at the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, a facility that houses young victims of abuse or neglect.
The driver was saved by a person present at the scene of the accident, but the passengers could not be extracted alive from the vehicle which caught fire. Photos posted on social media show flames several meters high and a thick cloud of black smoke.
A father and nine-month-old daughter, who were traveling in another vehicle, also died after being transported to an area hospital, the medical examiner said.
“Our hearts are heavy today,” facility manager Michael Smith wrote on the Girls Ranch Facebook page, a facility created by the sheriff’s office. “It’s a horrible tragedy and loss.”
“It’s their family”
Residents of the ranch who traveled in a second vehicle, behind the one in which the eight young girls perished, were not involved in the accident, according to the local news site Al.com.
“We try to help them” with the support of pastors, explained Michael Smith about them to the Al.com site. “They were traumatized once again.”
“This ranch is their family,” he described, and with the accident, “they lost a lot of their family.”
For Butler County Sheriff Danny Bond, it was “the worst” accident the county has ever seen.
Initially billed as a storm, Claudette was downgraded to tropical depression status as it reached US shores.
It nevertheless caused strong winds and very heavy rains in Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama and Georgia.
Claudette also caused, in places, tornadoes, which felled trees, overturned cars and even destroyed mobile homes, according to images from local television stations.
In addition to the pileup, the president of the city council of Tuscaloosa (Alabama), Kip Tyner, confirmed Saturday, on Facebook, that two other people had died during the passage of Claudette.
According to a member of the sheriff’s office, quoted by the Tuscaloosa News site, it is a 24-year-old man and his 3-year-old son, killed in their home by a falling tree.
According to Kip Tyner, more than 18 cm of rain fell in a few hours in Tuscaloosa County.
In Louisiana, precipitation even reached, in places, up to 35 cm of rain near New Orleans, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
The sudden and heavy rains caused flooding in several parts of the region.