Nine children were among 10 people killed in a horrific Alabama interstate crash on Saturday that involved 18 vehicles, including two tractor-trailer rigs and a bus from a home for abused, neglected and abandoned girls, authorities said.
The crash occurred about 2:30 p.m. on Interstate 65 in Butler County, Alabama, and was described to ABC News by Butler County Sheriff Danny Bond as a "domino effect" crash.
Bond said the episode unfolded when two 18-wheelers crashed and sandwiched a bus from the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch between them. He said an SUV that held the other two deceased victims, a father and daughter, crashed nearby.
Wayne Garlock, the Butler County coroner, said one of the vehicles that set off the chain-reaction crash is believed to have hydroplaned on the wet pavement. The crash came as Tropical Storm Claudette drenched much of the Southeast. Bond said there had been no downpours at the time of the crash and that he could not confirm that the accident was prompted by a hydroplaning vehicle.
Cody Fox, 29, and his 9-month-old daughter, Ariana Fox, died in the accident when their SUV overturned, according to Garlock. Cody Fox was pronounced dead at the scene, and Ariana died at a hospital.
The eight deaths were those of children aged 4 to 17, who were traveling in a Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch bus. The children and the driver, identified by Bond as Candice Gulley, were the only ones on the bus.
Bond said two of Gulley's children died in the crash.
Gulley was rescued by a bystander who got out of his car and pulled the driver to safety. The bystander tried to then help the kids inside, but the bus was already engulfed by smoke and flames and he could not get to them, officials said.
None of the other people who survived the crash appear to have life-threatening injuries, officials said. One woman was taken to a Montgomery hospital with broken bones, Garlock said.
The ranch's operator, the Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches, called the deaths "a great loss."
"Our hearts are so heavy today. Our Ranch family has suffered a great loss. As many of you may have heard, one of our Ranch vehicles was involved in a multiple car accident yesterday afternoon. It is such a horrible tragedy and loss," said Michael Smith, chief executive officer of Alabama Sheriff's Youth Ranches.
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said the devastating crash marked a "tragic day" for Alabama.
"My heart goes out to the loved ones of all who perished during the storm in Butler & Tuscaloosa counties," Ivey wrote on Twitter. "Let's keep these families, communities & first responders lifted in prayer."
The National Transportation Safety Board is sending 10 investigators to conduct a safety investigation of the crash in coordination with the Alabama Highway Patrol, the agency said on Twitter.
The NTSB said its investigators were scheduled to arrive at the scene of the crash Sunday night.