NEW YORK (CBSMiami/CBSNews) — “CBS This Morning” has obtained jarring new video of the moment a semi-truck plowed into a church van killing seven people in January near Gainesville. Five of the victims were on their way to Disney World.
“I remember closing my eyes and thinking this is it. We’re gonna die,” Ali Laborde told CBS News’ Kris Van Cleave.
Laborde – 31 weeks pregnant – was a chaperone in the church van headed for Disney World January 3. She woke up on the pavement bloodied, surrounded by debris, the burning 18-wheeler and bodies.
“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 weren’t alive,” Laborde said.
Her 13-year-old daughter Cara and Cara’s cousin Cierra were among those five young lives lost on I-75 that day. Ages 9 to 14, all were from the same small Louisiana town of Marksville. They’d saved up for the Disney World trip for a year. Laborde learned of her daughter’s death from her hospital bed.
“I said, ‘No, I don’t want you tell me. I don’t want to hear that. I don’t want you to tell me that my daughter’s gone. I don’t want you to tell that she’s not here anymore,” Laborde said.
Her other daughter, Chelsey, survived but she’ll wear the scars from the accident forever.
Laborde and other survivors are now suing, alleging negligence and wrongful death.
“That Eagle Express truck came at that van like a missile,” said lawyer Kurt Arnold. Arnold represents most of the victims and says the accident was entirely preventable. “If you’ve looked at this dashcam, this should’ve never happened.”
The dash cam video is hard to watch and shows the Eagle Express semi coming from the far northbound lanes, before it hits a car and crosses the median, slamming into the side of the van.
One of Laborde’s cherished memories is a video of the day she told Cara, Chelsey and her son Carson that they were going to have a little sister.
“I feel such a weight, such a heaviness. I feel like I’m livin’ a nightmare, like I’m livin’ someone else’s life,” she said.
But despite all that day’s horror, baby Cambrie wasn’t hurt. Just weeks later, she was born healthy and happy. Her name means angel. A miracle born of tragedy.
Eagle Express tells CBS News it takes safety very seriously and “We mourn the traffic accident,” adding it appears the truck driver, who was also killed, suffered “a sudden medical emergency that rendered him unconscious, leading to the accident.”
The National Transportation Safety Board, which is still investigating, has not commented on what may have caused the crash.
It is in the midst of midst of determining the probable cause of the crash. The agency had not been able to immediately to deploy to the scene because of the government shutdown.