A family vacation to Disney World took a tragic turn for an East Texas family after five family members, two adults and three children, were killed en route when their sport utility vehicle veered off the interstate and rolled over in northeast Louisiana, police said.
The car was driven by a 16-year-old who likely fell asleep at the wheel just before 11 p.m. Wednesday on Interstate 20 near Calhoun, state police spokesman Michael Reichardt said. The driver and two additional passengers suffered minor injuries.
Authorities identified the adults killed as Michael and Trudi Hardman of Terrell, Texas. The children killed were ages 4, 7 and 15. None of those killed wore seat belts but the driver did, officials said.
Troopers said the 16-year-old drove left into the median and then tried to get back onto the highway but overcorrected, causing the 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe to roll over.
Troopers say six of the eight people in the SUV were thrown from the vehicle. Ouachita Parish coroners pronounced the five family members dead on the scene.
Trudi Hardman, a kindergarten teacher in Wills Point, Texas, had recently changed the cover photo on her Facebook page to an image reading "Proud to call myself a Disney addict" and her publicly posted photo albums show loving movments with her children and other family members. Ron Hardman was a second grade teacher in Terrell.
Helen Courrege, who said she is a cousin of Trudi Hardman, posted the following account on Trudi’s Facebook page: My cousin Trudi Wagoner Hardman, with her husband and their 6 kids, 2 from her previous marriage, 3 from his previous marriage, and 1 from their current marriage were traveling to Disney World on a family vacation, and they were in a car accident and flipped the van that they were traveling in. Our Cousin, her husband, one of the kids from her previous marriage, one from his previous marriage and their 4 year old daughter that they had together all passed away in the accident. The one boy is in the hospital in Shreveport. One received stitches and has gone home, another has been flown back to Dallas uninjured...please pray for our family.
"Our heartfelt condolences go out to all of the people affected by this tragic crash," said Col. Mike Edmonson, the Louisiana State Police superintendent. "In an instance this family vacation turned into an unspeakable tragedy."
Troopers said they did not suspect the young driver was impaired, but a toxicology sample was taken.