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5 Kids Headed to Disney World in Church Van Among 7 Killed in Fiery Florida Crash Involving 2 Big Rigs

The Latest on a fatal highway crash in Florida (all times local):

5:30 p.m.

The five children killed in a fiery Florida highway crash on their way to Walt Disney World have been identified along with the two truck drivers who also died.

The Florida Highway Patrol said Friday that the children were 14-year-olds Joel Cloud and Jeremiah Warren, 13-year-old Cara Descant, 10-year-old Briena Descant, and 9-year-old Cierra Bordelan. All were from Marksville, Louisiana, and were in a Pentecostal church van headed to the theme park when the accident happened Thursday afternoon outside Gainesville.

The truck drivers were 49-year-old Douglas Bolkema of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and 59-year-old Steve Holland of West Palm Beach.

The van was an hour north of the theme park when Holland’s tractor-trailer heading in the opposite direction on Interstate 75 collided with a car and both burst through the center divider. The van and Bolkema’s truck collided with the semi and the car and burst into flames.

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3:10 p.m.

Walt Disney World officials are expressing their sympathies to the families of the seven victims of a fiery Florida highway crash, including five children headed to the park.

Spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said Friday that “there are no words to convey the sorrow we feel for those involved.”

The children were riding in van belonging to a Pentecostal church in Marksville, Louisiana. Officials say they ranged in age from 8 to teens.

The van was an hour north of the theme park Thursday when a tractor-trailer heading in the opposite direction on Interstate 75 collided with a car and both burst through the center divider. The van and another truck collided with the semi and the car and burst into flames.

Five children and both truck drivers died.

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1 p.m.

A pregnant woman who was among those injured in a fiery Florida highway crash that killed seven people on Thursday has delivered a baby.

The birth was announced in a message posted on the Facebook page of the Louisiana district office of the United Pentecostal Church International and signed by Kevin Cox, the church’s Louisiana district superintendent.

Cox said a van from a Pentecostal church in Marksville, Louisiana, was involved in the crash and identified the church’s pastor as Eric Descant. He said the pastor’s wife was among at least eight people who were injured and that his granddaughter was among five children killed. Two truck drivers also died.

An unnamed volunteer at the Avoyelles House of Mercy church in Marksville said the congregation lost “half of our babies” in the crash. The volunteer was quoted on the Facebook page of U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy.

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10:20 a.m.

The Florida Highway Patrol says five children from Louisiana and two tractor-trailer truck drivers died in a fiery crash on a Florida interstate.

During a news conference on Friday morning, Lt. Patrick Riordan said the church passenger van carrying the children was from the Avoyelles Parish in Louisiana. The crash happened at 3:40 p.m. Thursday just south of Gainesville in north Florida.

Riordan says a tractor trailer and a passenger vehicle traveling north, collided and went through the guardrail into the southbound lanes. They struck the passenger van and another tractor trailer. He says when the trucks collided they caught fire.

Riordan says next of kin notifications are still underway.

The northbound lanes of the interstate reopened on Friday and one southbound lane is now open.

A traffic homicide investigation continues into what caused the crash.

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8:45 a.m.

The Florida Highway Patrol says all northbound lanes of Interstate 75 in Florida are open the morning after a fiery crash that killed seven people and injured at least eight others.

Motorists should expect delays on Friday as only one southbound lane is open south of Gainesville, where the crash happened Thursday afternoon.

The highway patrol has scheduled a 10 a.m. news conference to discuss the investigation into the crash.

Two big rigs and two passenger vehicles collided and diesel fuel spilled across the busy highway.

Sgt. Steve Gaskins said the investigation is classified as a traffic homicide, which is routine in nature.

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9:15 p.m.

Authorities say another person has died in a fatal crash on a Florida highway, bringing the death toll to seven.

Two big rigs and two passenger vehicles collided and spilled diesel fuel across the highway Thursday on Interstate 75 near Gainesville, sparking a massive fire.

The Gainesville Sun reports several others were taken to the hospital, some with critical injuries.

Emergency crews extinguished the fire and said they were treating the crash as a homicide investigation. Authorities have not why they are treating the deaths as potential homicides.

Authorities say their top priority is identifying the victims so they can notify their relatives.

The aftermath closed part of the highway in both directions for hours, causing massive delays.

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6:50 p.m.

Highway officials say six people have died after a crash and diesel fuel spill sparked a massive fire on a Florida interstate.

The Florida Highway Patrol says two tractor-trailer rigs and two passenger vehicles were involved in Thursday’s wreck on Interstate 75 about a mile (1.6 kilometers) south of Alachua, near Gainesville. Authorities say the fire was ignited after about 50 gallons (189 liters) of diesel spilled onto the highway.

The fire has been extinguished. Eight others have been taken to the hospital. The Gainesville Sun reports some of the injuries were critical.

A helicopter landed to search for injured people who may have been in the woods along the crash scene.

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This story corrects that Kevin Cox is affiliated with the Louisiana District of the United Pentecostal Church International and not the Lighthouse United Pentecostal Church Omaha.

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