ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. - Police said six members of an extended Wisconsin family were killed and two injured when their SUV was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer and burst into flames on a Kentucky highway.
Minutes later, another crash in the opposite direction injured three, one critically.
Police said the first crash happened at 11:13 a.m. EST Saturday on northbound Interstate 65 near Elizabethtown.
Police said all occupants of the SUV were from Marion, Wis. They were identified as James Gollnow, 62, and his wife Barbara, 62; Marion Champnise, 92; Sarina Gollnow, 18; Soledad Smith, 8; and Gabriel Zumiga, 10.
Police said Soledad and Gabriel were foster children.
The two survivors were also foster children. Police identified them as 15-year-old Hope Hoth, who was transported to a hospital in Lexington with burns and a broken spine; and 12-year-old Aidian Ejnik who was taken to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville with cuts to the back of his head. Police described both of the children's injuries as non-life-threatening.
Police said after the SUV was hit, it hit the car in front of it, but the driver of that vehicle had only minor injuries.
Master Trooper Norman Chaffins said he didn't know where the family was heading.
The family's 1999 Ford Expedition was "totally engulfed in flames. It was totally destroyed by the fire," he said, adding, "It's just a charred mess."
He said one eyewitness told police two people emerged from the blaze and one appeared to be on fire.
The two crashes shut down the busy stretch of highway for about five hours.
Chaffins said despite snow flurries, weather was not a factor in either crash.
The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured and was cooperating with police, Chaffins said. He was not identified.
"He's obviously pretty torn up about everything," he said.
The southbound crash involved a tractor-trailor and three other vehicles and Chaffins said police were investigating whether rubbernecking was the cause.
The drummer for country music star Kellie Pickler has been identified as one of the people hospitalized in two crashes along Interstate 65 in central Kentucky.
Pickler's manager, Larry Fitzgerald, said Gregg Lohman suffered serious injuries in the wreck Saturday.
University of Louisville Hospital spokesman David McArthur said Lohman remained there in serious condition Sunday.
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