January 31, 2019 / 12:53 AM / 18 days ago

U.S. safety board opens probe into deadly Florida highway crash

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Wednesday it would send a team of eight to probe a deadly Jan. 3 crash in Florida that killed seven, including five children traveling to Disney World.

The investigation was one of dozens that were delayed due to the 35-day partial government shutdown that ended on Friday. The NTSB said the shutdown prevented it “from sending investigators to Gainesville immediately following crash.” The agency said it is coordinating with the Florida Highway Patrol, which opened an investigation immediately following the crash.

Five Louisiana children aged 9 to 14 in a church van were among the seven people who died in the fiery crash involving two tractor trailers traveling in opposite directions in Florida. Two truck drivers were also killed and eight others were injured in the incident, police said.

The church van, owned by Avoyelles House of Mercy in Marksville, Louisiana, was taking nine children and three women to Orlando, home of Disney World, according to Kevin Cox, Louisiana district superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church.

The NTSB said the Florida Highway Patrol’s “excellent work will greatly assist NTSB’s safety investigation while they

continue their police investigation.”

The interstate highway was closed in both directions for several hours. The safety board said on Tuesday that it had been unable to open 97 investigations due to the partial government shutdown, including 15 aviation accidents resulting in 21 deaths.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler

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