An entire family – including a baby girl and her 4-year-old sister – were among the five people killed in a horrific Interstate 95 crash Tuesday afternoon. Relatives say the family was returning to their home in South Carolina from a Mother’s Day celebration in Pennsylvania.
Troopers said four of the dead, including the children, were members of a family from Goose Creek, S.C. Television station WTVD identified the family members as Elise Spennati, 32, Cole Spennati, 25, Aila Spennati, 4, and Sianna Spennati, 1. The four died in their pickup truck on the highway.
In all, six vehicles were involved in the pileup, which set the interstate’s grass median and nearby woods on fire, according to multiple media outlets.
TV station WCIV interviewed the mother of Cole Spennati, who said the family had been visiting her for Mother's Day weekend in Pennsylvania. She said her son, Cole, was in the Navy Munition Command at the Naval Weapons Station. He was a mineman, who dealt with underwater mines and just received orders to be stationed in San Diego.
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The crash closed the interstate for almost 12 hours Tuesday in Robeson County, and state officials remained concerned that the fire may have caused permanent damage to the pavement, reports said.
The crash happened about 1 p.m. Tuesday just north of the South Carolina state line and created a seven-mile backup.
Media outlets in the area, 120 miles east of Charlotte, showed three tractor-trailer trucks and three smaller vehicles were involved. A tanker truck was among the vehicles, but it did not explode. The driver of the tanker, Michael Elliott Bricker, 68, of Myrtle Beach, was killed.
Witnesses told WTVD that it appeared one of the trucks involved had a fuel tank problem and caught fire. The flames then spread. Two passenger vehicles burned, with one of them flipped upside down, WNCN reported.
The fire was still smoldering nearly 10 hours after the wreck, with smoke surrounding law enforcement officials, firefighters and emergency medical personnel on scene late into the night, reported The Fayetteville Observer. Two passenger vehicles were burned beyond recognition and the cabs of two trucks sustained serious burns, the newspaper reported.
WNCN reported the crash happened at a spot where Department of Transportation workers were repainting the highway lane lines and traffic was forced to merge into one lane. The driver of a tanker truck failed to stop, causing the crash, WNCN reported.
In addition to the five killed, four others were injured and were airlifted to the hospital. The Fayetteville Observer reported two were taken to UNC Hospitals at Chapel Hill.
N.C. Department of Transportation officials were on scene Tuesday testing the structural integrity of the southbound roadway.