Tropical Depression Claudette claims 13 lives; 8 children from youth home included

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Bringing flash floods and propelling tornadoes, Tropical Depression Claudette has killed 13 people in Alabama, including eight children aboard a vehicle which met a mishap on a wet highway.

Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock said that the accident transpired on Saturday in the south of Montgomery, particularly on Interstate 65 while the vehicle is traversing wet paths.

Aboard a van were four to 17-year-old children from Alabama Sheriffs Association-backed Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch.

The vehicle was on its way back to the ranch located northeast of Montgomery from Gulf Shores, said the youth ranches CEO Michael Smith.

It went ablaze following the crash. The lone survivor who was rescued by a bystander was the ranch director, Candice Gulley, who was in critical but now in safe condition at the hospital on Sunday. The 4-year-old and 16-year-old children who were killed in the accident were her own, the four others were the residents at the ranch, while the two were their guests, according to Smith.

“This is the worst tragedy I’ve been a part of in my life,” the CEO exclaimed. Smith returned to the ranch on Sunday and had a talk with the residents who rode in a separate vehicle and came back from the Gulf Shores safe.

“Words cannot explain what I saw,” the CEO said. “We love these girls like they’re our own children.”

Apart from the children, two other persons in another vehicle were killed in the accident. They were both from Marion County, Tennessee and were identified as Cody Fox, 29, and her daughter Ariana, 9 months.

Three more deaths were recorded due to the weather disturbance.

Capt. Jack Kennedy of the Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit said a man, 24, and a boy, 3, were killed as a tree crashed into their home on Saturday near Tuscaloosa city limits.

Also killed was a 23-year-old woman identified as Fort Payne. DeKalb County Deputy Coroner Chris Thacker said the victim’s car slipped from the road and fell into a fill out creek.