Four people including a child have died and 14 others have been injured after a church van caught fire in a crash with a pickup truck in a Maryland suburb of the nation’s capital on Sunday afternoon, authorities said.
Marc Bashoor, chief of the Prince George’s County Fire Department, said via Twitter that three adults and one child were confirmed as fatalities. He said the accident occurred late Sunday afternoon on a road in Hyattsville just northeast of Washington, D.C.
Fire department spokesman Mark Brady said via Twitter Sunday night that 14 others — six children and eight adults — were transported to local hospitals. He said that eight of those transported were in critical condition, including four children.
Brady also said on television that authorities believe that a pickup truck first collided with another vehicle, and then continued forward with a tire on fire when it hit the blue van, which was big enough to hold 15 passengers.
Brady said most of the injuries and fatalities were concentrated in the passenger van, which he described as a church van.
Brady said the crash was one of the worst scenes he has worked in a 40-year career. And he cautioned that the investigation remains in its early stages.
A police spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment Sunday evening.
Donald Huff, who lives on the street where the accident took place, said he heard “a loud boom, just like a bomb,” and then saw the van burst into flames.
“The fire just got bigger and bigger,” he told The Associated Press by phone.
He said a couple of people ran out on the street with kitchen fire extinguishers “to try to get as close as they could, but it was a little too much.” He said that when the fire department arrived and brought the blaze under control, he could see them pulling bodies from the van. White smoke billowed from the scene afterward.
A witness also told WTTG-TV that she heard the crash from her home, and when she ran out, she saw “just regular people running in and pulling people out of the van.” She said she saw bystanders remove at least four children from the van.
Photos taken by people nearby appeared to show flames shooting into the air near the side of the passenger van. The photos showed the van and the pickup truck had halted in what appeared to be the front yard of a single-family home. The extent of the fire and other damage to the vehicles involved wasn’t immediately known.
A spokeswoman for MedStar Washington Hospital Center said Sunday night that some of those in the crash had been sent there, but she had no additional details.
Crews from others counties were aiding in the response.
Source: The AP