California officials are investigating a head-on car crash that killed seven children and two adults in the state on New Year’s Day.
The California Highway Patrol (CHP) said the children were all between the ages of 6 and 15 years old. They were traveling in a Ford F-150 with a driver, who has been identified by authorities as a woman, when the vehicle was struck at approximately 8 p.m. by a Dodge Journey outside of Coalinga, Calif., according to multiple reports.
The 28-year-old driver of the Dodge, identified as Daniel Luna of Avenal, Calif., was traveling southbound on Route 33 in California and veered onto the shoulder of the road before overcorrecting and swerving, CHP officials confirmed in a press conference on Saturday. Both of the drivers died in the crash alongside the seven children.
The Ford burst into flames following the crash. It was only equipped with six seat belts.
“When the fire was extinguished, tragically it was discovered there were eight occupants — seven of which appeared to be juveniles — inside the Ford,” CHP Capt. Kevin Clays said at the Saturday afternoon news conference.
The CHP is seeking information from bystanders who may have seen the vehicles before the collision, Clays confirmed on Saturday.
It was not known if drugs or alcohol were a factor in the crash.
The families of the occupants of the Ford have launched a GoFundMe fundraiser and identified their loved ones as Gabriela Verdin, Brooke Pulido, Giada Pulido, Jonah Pulido, Mia Pulido, Daniella Ayala, Camila Ayala, and Anthony Ayala.
“While we cannot begin to understand the reason we lost them all at once, we are burdened with the reality of having to lay eight family members to rest at one time. We take solace in knowing that they left this world together,” the fundraiser says.