Seven children who had been adopted by a single family were killed Wednesday in a fiery crash when their car was crushed between a truck and a stopped school bus in rural northern Florida. The children, ranging in age from 21 months to 15 years, were headed toward their home about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) north of the crash site. The truck hit them from behind, pushing their car into the bus and causing the car to burst into flames, police said.
Everyone in the car was killed, including the 15-year-old girl who was driving illegally. All of the youngsters had been adopted by the same family and lived together, police said. It was unclear why the children were unaccompanied.
Evidence from the scene showed that the truck, which was carrying bottled water, did not brake before hitting the car on the two-lane road, said Lt. Mike Burroughs of the Florida Highway Patrol.
The bus ended up 200 feet (61 meters) from where the car struck it, and the cab of the truck lay overturned near the scene, Burroughs said. The bus was at an approved bus stop, but it was not immediately clear whether children were getting on or off.
"It's a very chaotic scene," Burroughs said. "It's just a mangled, charred mess." Nine students were on the bus, and three were thrown from the vehicle by the force of the crash. But the extent of their injuries was also unclear.
State police said three were seriously hurt and six others suffered minor injuries. Hospital officials said two were in critical condition and three were in serious condition.
The drivers of the bus and the truck were also taken to a hospital. The truck driver suffered minor injuries, and authorities planned to interview him. The bus driver was thrown from the vehicle, and her condition was not immediately known.
The car was driven by 15-year-old Nicki Mann, who was with siblings Elizabeth Mann, 15; Johnny Mann, 13; Heaven Mann, 3; Ashley Kenn, 13; Miranda Finn, who was either 8 or 9 years old; and Anthony Lamb, who was almost two years old. Lamb was in the process of being adopted, Burroughs said.
Joy Clemmins, who lives next to the crash site, said she heard the collision and ran out of her house.
"It was horrible. People were screaming, children were wandering around, two were laying the middle of the road," she said. "It is like they were walking around in a dream." The bus was operated by the Union County school district, which has three schools from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade in the area about 60 miles southwest of Jacksonville, reports the AP. I.L.
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