Horrific Alabama crash: ‘Please pray for our ranch family’

This is an opinion tribute cartoon.

Heartbreaking weekend in Alabama: The ‘most horrific accident in Butler County history’ took the lives of 9 children and one adult on I-65 this past Saturday.

Excerpts from the AL.com reports:

The grief continues for those who lost loved ones in the horrific weekend crash on an Alabama interstate, but amid the heartbreak is hope and help.

“The community has embraced us more than we could ever ask for,’' Michael Smith, CEO for the Alabama Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, said Monday. “We need all the support we can get but, more than that, we need a lot of prayers.”

Those killed were in a Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch vehicle and a small SUV, said Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock. The vehicles involved in the crash were thought to have hydroplaned, officials said.

The crash happened about 2:30 p.m. Saturday on Interstate 65 northbound in Butler County. According to ALEA state troopers, a total of 17 vehicles were involved and seven of those caught fire, including the 2017 Ford 15-passenger ranch van driven by Candice Gulley, director of the Tallapoosa campus.

Gulley was pulled to safety and is hospitalized in Montgomery in serious but stable condition. Two of Gulley’s children, 16-year-old Isabella, and 3-year-old Ben, died in the crash. Gulley’s two nephews, Josiah Dunnavant, 12, and 8-year-old Nicholas Dunnavant, also were killed.

Authorities are not yet releasing the names of the four teen girls who were residents at the Tallapoosa ranch.

A Tennessee father, Cody Fox, and his 9-month-old daughter were in another vehicle and also were killed. Fox’s fiancé remains hospitalized with critical injuries.

Girls from the facility were travelling in two vehicles on the way back from a trip to Gulf Shores, Smith said. The vehicle in front was involved in the deadly crash and the girls in the second vehicle did not see the carnage of the wreck, Smith said.

“I thank God for that,” Smith said. “All of the families have been notified. We’re certainly in a grieving process.”

“All of the children that are deceased that were on that van loved God and they are in a better place. Our Christian values will get us through this situation. All that we ask your readers do is please keep us in their prayers and pray for our extended family, our ranch family. We need prayer.

“We have grief counseling. We have pastors meeting with all of our ranches and we’re trying to help them. They’ve been traumatized once again their lives by losing their family. On this ranch, this is their family. They have lost a big portion of their family.”


JD Crowe is the cartoonist for Alabama Media Group and AL.com and 2020 RFK Human Rights Award winner for Editorial Cartoons.

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