January 16, 2019
Credit: Alachua County Fire Rescue
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB)-- It was a tragedy that struck not one, but two communities that day. Gainesville, Florida, and Marksville, Louisiana, will never be the same.
WCJB TV20 is the first to obtain the 911 calls from the January 3 I-75 crash. While some of it can be upsetting, ultimately the calls tell a story about a community coming together to help in a time of need.
"9-1-1 what is your emergency?"
The fiery crash left seven people dead and eight others injured.
"Big ball of flames. worst thing I've ever seen in my life," said a 911 caller.
14-year-old Joel Cloud, 14-year-old Jeremiah Warren, 9-year-old Cierra Bordelan, 13-year-old Cara Descant and 10-year-old Brieana Descant were all killed while on their way to Disney World.
The crash closed the highway for hours, leaving family members searching for loved ones.
"My sister and a couple of adults and a van of children were headed to Disney with their church group. They were in a pretty bad accident, the hospital called my mother and said my sister was there. We're trying to find out where the accident was and where the children are at," said a 911 caller from Alabama.
Drivers, community members and retired first responders called in for help at the scene. Despite the tragedy that day, the 911 calls show a resilience from the Florida community coming together to help others in need.
"I am CPR and AED certified, do I need to assist these people or no?" asked another caller.
Instead of running away from the scene, many ran toward it.
"My husband slammed on the brakes and jumped out of the car, he told me to call 911, then started running to try and help people," said a 911 caller.
Even streets away, others called in to make sure those who needed help got it.
"I am working on a roof, in the neighborhood Stonegate off of 241. There's some huge explosions going on and barreling black smoke," a caller told dispatchers.
The Pentecostals of Gainesville announced shorty after the crash that they would pay for the burial plots of the five children who lost their lives in the tragic accident.
The Florida Highway Patrol is still investigating the cause of the crash.