UPDATE: 5 Children, 2 Truckers Identified In Fatal I-75 Crash, Blame Game Begins
Alachua County, Florida – Authorities have released the identities of five children and two truck drivers who perished in the fatal crash along I-75 near Gainesville, Florida, on Thursday.
The Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) 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 traveling in a United Pentecostal Church van headed to a Disney theme park when the accident happened. Three adults and 4 other children onboard the van were injured, but survived the accident.
The truck drivers were 49-year-old Douglas Bolkema of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and 59-year-old Steve Holland of West Palm Beach.
The FHP says Holland’s truck was traveling north in the far-right lane when, for reasons not yet known, his truck suddenly veered left, colliding with a sedan driven by Robyn Rattray, 41, of Gainesville.
Both the big rig and sedan then traveled out of control and crashed through the center divider. Holland’s semi-truck plowed into the southbound church van, driven by Amy Joffiron, 49, causing it to flip numerous times.
Some of the nine children on board were ejected from the van during the accident officials said. FHP said it is unknown if any were wearing seatbelts.
The church van and the semi Bolkema was navigating, both traveling southbound, then collided with Holland’s truck and Rattray’s vehicle. The vehicles then burst into flames and a diesel leak estimated to be 50 gallons ignited erupting into an inferno.
A fifth car, unable to avoid the scene, sped through striking people who were thrown from the van, the FHP said.
Blame Game Begins Before All Facts Are Known
Normally the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) would send an investigative team. However, according to numerous reports, the NTSB will not be sending a team due to the ongoing partial government shutdown embroiling Washington, D.C.
Investigators so far have not revealed why they believe Holland veered out-of-control. Published reports are already calling Holland’s driving history into question though.
According to court records, Holland received numerous tickets between 2000 and 2014 in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Virginia. Holland received citations for speeding, driving an unsafe vehicle, driving an overloaded vehicle and not carrying proof of insurance.
However, it should once again be noted the initial cause for why Holland crashed into Rattray has not yet been determined. FHP officials are continuing their investigation and we will update you when we learn more.
FHP Press Conference shared courtesy of First Coast News/YouTube