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5 Avoyelles Parish children die in fiery collision in Florida

Louisianians are mourning the loss of five children who lost their lives in a fiery collision involving two semitrucks just outside of Gainesville, Florida. The five children were traveling in a van with relatives and other members of the Avoyelles House of Mercy church and were on their way to a post-Christmas holiday at Orlando's Disney World.

The multi-vehicle fatal collision occurred on Thursday, Jan. 3. According to the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), a northbound semitruck and an automobile first collided. The initial impact caused both to slam through the guardrail and strike another semitruck headed south, as well as the van. Inside the van were three adults and nine children.

The secondary head-on collision led to several in the van being ejected onto the highway where another driver, unable to evade the accident, ran over them. The subsequent fireball from leaking diesel fuel that consumed the wreckage also led to the drivers of both semitrucks perishing in the carnage.

Fun trip derailed by horror crash

The aunt of one 14-year-old victim described the church trip as "clean fun" for the group. But a pall was cast over the small Louisiana town of Marksville when residents realized that the tragic wreck pictured on the evening news claimed five of their own.

As the victim's aunt told a media outlet in a post-crash interview, "We knew it had to be them. When they left you were looking for them to go have fun and enjoy themselves. No one expected anything like this to happen."

The United Pentecostal Church International posted on its group Facebook page a statement by the Louisiana district superintendent. He noted that the 50-year-old wife of the church pastor was injured and that his granddaughter was among the victims. One pregnant woman was also hurt, but the superintendent noted that both she and her unborn baby were in stable condition. All told, eight suffered injuries in the wreck, some that were considered to be serious.

According to authorities, the five deceased children included two 14-year-old boys and three girls, ages 13, 10 and 9. Two of the deceased girls share the same last name as their pastor, and, reportedly, one of the girls who was killed was his granddaughter. The relationship of other girl to the others who shared the same last name was not clear.

Community rallies around survivors

The small size of Marksville — approximately 5,500 residents — means that most people who live in the Avoyelles Parish seat were related to or knew at least one of the victims of the horrific collision. Pastors of local churches have responded by organizing prayer vigils, rosary recitations and an ecumenical memorial service at the Marksville High School football field.

Victims of semitruck accidents have recourse

Those who were injured in accidents involving negligent semitruck drivers, as well as survivors of the victims, should realize that they have the option to seek compensation from those liable for the crash.

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