13 dead in Alabama due to Claudette, including 9 children in multi-vehicle crash; storm to strengthen on way to East Coast

Tropical Depression Claudette  continued its destructive path Sunday night, leaving at least 13 dead in Alabama as it strengthened along its path towards the Atlantic Coast.

Though the depression was not yet a tropical storm, it was forecast to continue its strengthening into one as soon as later Sunday night over eastern North Carolina before becoming a post-tropical cyclone Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the deadly multi-vehicle Alabama collision that took place Saturday, and an investigator is expected to be at the pileup location Sunday night, spokesman Keith Holloway said. Ten NTSB investigators will coordinate with the Alabama Highway Patrol. 

The collision, killed at least 10 people, including nine children, authorities said.

Eight of the children were involved in Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, south of Montgomery, Alabama. The program is part of the nonprofit Alabama Sheriffs Youth Ranches, which provide homes for needy, neglected or abused school-age children.

The program confirmed that one of its vehicles was involved in the crash.

“Please send prayers our way as we navigate this difficult time,” the Tallapoosa ranch said in a Facebook post.

A website for the ranch shows the children attend Reeltown School. A Facebook post for the high school said it planned to offer counseling support and a prayer session Sunday afternoon.

The crash occurred on Interstate 65 at around 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Butler County, south of Montgomery. The wreck blocked traffic in both directions for most of the day.

Butler County Sheriff Danny Bond told the Montgomery Advertiser, part of the USA TODAY Network, that the “horrific scene” was the worst traffic accident he’d ever witnessed. He said the tragedy involved 18 vehicles and caused multiple injuries.

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