NTSB finds ‘unsafe speeds of multiple vehicles’ likely caused crash that left 9 children and 1 adult dead
By Rebekah Riess, CNN
(CNN) — The National Transportation Safety Board has determined that the probable cause of a 2021 crash involving multiple vehicles in Butler County, Alabama, which killed nine children and one adult, was “the unsafe speeds of multiple vehicles during rain, low visibility, and wet road conditions,” according to the report.
Contributing to the fatal injuries of eight of the children killed was the post-crash fire, the NTSB added. “However, neither the exact origin of the fire nor the exact ignition source could be determined due to the extent and severity of the fire damage,” the report said.
The children who were killed ranged in age from 4 to 17, and were in a transit van from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch.
According to the NTSB report, the eight small Girls Ranch van passengers died from “thermal and blunt-force trauma injuries,” and autopsy reports indicated soot in all of their airways. The 29-year-old father and his 9-month-old daughter, who were traveling in another vehicle on Interstate 65, “were both in the impact and intrusion area and were fatally injured,” the report said.
The youth ranch provides a home for neglected or abused school-age children, according to Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches, the non-profit managing the Tallapoosa County ranch and others across the state.
The accident happened on I-65 northbound at mile marker 138 on an afternoon when storms were sweeping through the state. A tropical depression had dumped heavy rain across the Southeast.
The lone survivor from the Girls Ranch vehicle was the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch director, who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident, Michael Smith, the CEO of the organization said at the time of the crash.
The director lost two of her own children in the crash, and was hospitalized, initially in serious condition.
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CNN’s Dakin Andone, Chuck Johnston and Martin Savidge contributed to this report.