GoFundMe Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch
An Alabama community is in mourning following the tragic, multi-vehicle car crash on Saturday that killed 10 people.
On Sunday afternoon, loved ones of eight of the victims came together at Reeltown High School in Notasulga to pay tribute and memorialize the young lives lost, according to AL.com.
Of the eight victims - who ranged in age from 3 to 17 - four were identified as teen girls who attended Reeltown High School and were residents at the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, the outlet reported.
The foster home in Camp Hill provides "loving, supportive homes for abandoned, abused and neglected children," according to a GoFundMe page set up in the wake of the crash.
The other four victims were identified as the son and daughter of Ranch Director Candice Gulley - the driver of the van who survived the crash after being pulled from the vehicle by a bystander - and Gulley's two nephews, according to AL.com.
A Tennessee father and his infant daughter, identified as Cody and Ariana Fox, also died in the crash but were in a separate vehicle, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) confirmed.
Michael Smith, the CEO of the Alabama Sheriff's Youth Ranches, previously told AL.com that the girls from the ranch were traveling in two vehicles on the way back from a trip to the city of Gulf Shores. The first vehicle was involved in the deadly crash but the girls in the second vehicle did not see the wreck, he confirmed.
South Pittsburg Mountain Volunteer Fire Department Cody Fox and his daughter Ariana
A teen who was in the second vehicle spoke at Sunday's memorial and tearfully detailed her time at the ranch with the girls who died, referring to them as her "sisters," according to AL.com.
"These girls have been through so much, and they were such strong, wonderful, kind family members and it was my privilege and my honor to be their big sister," said the college-bound teen, whose identity was not shared because she is in state custody.
"I have some really, really great memories with the girls and I'm sure a lot of you do too," she continued, per the outlet. "I loved them so, so much. But I know we can rest easy in the fact that we know they're in Heaven."
The teen went on to reassure the crowd that "these girls that are left here are strong," despite being heartbroken by the tragedy and not understanding why this happened.
"I am so thankful for all that I have, and I've lost a lot of family throughout my entire life, and I've been prepared for a lot of situations, but nothing could have prepared me for this,'' she said, according to AL.com. "It's hard, because I feel like every time I get close to somebody, they leave, or they get taken away. But this was a wonderful family while I had it."
"We've already been through so much. All these girls have been through so much, that's why we're here at the ranch,'' she continued. "And that question 'Why?' is not going to be answered. And we're going to be left with it, but we need to find hope, strength and faith in the fact that we have each other and we have love. That is something we do know the answer to - we know we have love."
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"We know that they are in a place where they are blissful, where they are joyful, where they are jubilant, where they have love,'' she added. "It's so hard to imagine such a big loss. I'm thankful they are in Heaven."
Finishing her heartfelt tribute, the teen encouraged the crowd to "show some love today" and embrace every moment life offers.
"I will never, ever in my life take life for granted because it is so precious," she said, per AL.com. "Love is the biggest thing. I loved my little sisters. I loved them so much. Just pray for us please."
Reeltown High School Principal Cliff Maddox also spoke at Sunday's memorial but struggled to express his heartbreak, according to AL.com.
"Everybody's still in shock. I'm in a fog. I can hardly talk,'' Maddox said, per the outlet.
"It's a very tight-knit community," Maddox added. "They're all our kids and I just wanted people to know they weren't hurting alone."
According to the ALEA, a total of 17 vehicles, including two commercial vehicles, were involved in the crash, which unfolded around 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. Seven of the 17 vehicles were ablaze when first responders arrived at the scene, their post stated.
Butler County Coroner Wayne Garlock told AL.com that after Gulley was pulled from the van by a bystander, they attempted to go back to retrieve the children inside. However, due to the flames, they were sadly unable to do so, Garlock said.
ALEA Troopers and investigators from the National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) are now investigating the incident, according to ALEA's post.
The GoFundMe page was set up on behalf of Tallapoosa County Girl's Ranch to help with "funeral-related expenses, medical costs for the injured and counseling for the others of this devastating event."
On the fundraiser, the organizer noted that Boys & Girls Ranches of Alabama provides "all the necessities plus education, basic and independent living skills so they will be prepared for adulthood after leaving our care."
"Our supporters help us raise Alabama's needy children into successful adults," reads the page, which has raised over $447,000.
Those interested in donating to the GoFundMe can do so here.