Survivor of Deadly Church Van Crash Speaks Out to CBS News

Footage of the truck accident which claimed the lives of seven people has been released by CBS This Morning. The accident occurred last January near Gainesville, Florida after a truck veered across a median and struck a church van on its way to Walt Disney World. The van was from Marksville, Louisiana and all five of those killed inside it were children. The accident also seriously injured eight others. Arnold & Itkin is currently representing survivors of the accident who were inside the van.

The NTSB has yet to determine the cause of the crash. It was unable to send investigators to the scene of the incident because of the government shutdown. So, this footage is an integral piece of evidence that investigators need to decide what caused the crash.

A Survivor Speaks Out for the First Time

Our client was inside the church van when it was struck by the massive truck. She was 31 weeks pregnant and was serving as a chaperone for the children being taken to Disney World by the vehicle.

"I remember closing my eyes and thinking this is it. We're gonna die," our client told CBS News. "I kept telling myself, 'everyone's okay. They're just hurt.' I didn't realize the severity. I didn't realize that there were five children that there weren't alive," she said.

When our client woke up on the pavement, debris and fire surrounded her. She recalled her painful moments of dealing with what had just happened by saying she could only tell herself that everyone was okay. However, everyone was not okay. Five child passengers died in the van, including our client’s 13-year-old daughter as well as her daughter’s cousin. 

Our client’s other daughter survived the accident. The two’s scars from the accident will serve as physical reminders of what happened to them. Fortunately, just weeks after the accident, our client gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Kurt Arnold Speaks to CBS News

Arnold & Itkin Attorney Kurt Arnold is representing Laborde and other survivors of the accident. We assert that the accident was preventable. In a comment about the crash, Arnold told CBS News that the "Eagle Express truck came at that van like a missile. If you've looked at this dashcam, this should've never happened."

However, Eagle Express, owner of the truck which was operating under a contract with the U.S. Postal Service, denies responsibility for the accident. In a statement to CBS News, the company asserts that the accident was not preventable. It claims that it’s number one priority is safety and that it “meets or exceeds all federal regulations as well as the more strident regulations of the U.S. Postal Service.” The company also claims that their driver suffered a medical emergency in the moments leading to the accident.

Court records reveal that the driver of the truck, who also died in the accident, had a history of traffic violations. These violations include speeding, driving an unsafe vehicle, driving an overloaded vehicle, and not carrying proof of insurance.

"Despite clear liability and devastating consequences, the defendants have attempted to insulate themselves and limit their potential financial exposure resulting from this deadly crash. The defendants have provided no proof or evidence to support any claim of medical emergency or justification for their driver's conduct. The defendants' unwillingness to accept full responsibility has necessitated the lawsuits recently filed in Chicago," Attorney Arnold said in response to comment from Eagle Express.

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