Seven people, including four children, are dead after a van collided with a trailer that had separated from a truck along Route 13 in Truxton in Cortland County. YNN's Bill Carey says against a backdrop of tragedy, authorities are hunting for answers.
TRUXTON, N.Y. -- Ruts in the ground were the only sign of what had happened the night before. Just hours earlier, Ken Stone, an assistant fire chief in Truxton, had been among the first to arrive at the scene.
Stone said, “Total carnage. It was total carnage.”
A minivan with eight people on board had been struck by the trailer of a tractor trailer that had separated from the rig along a curve in the road.
“Probably the original impact was right in here. The van was off the road trying to avoid it, the trailer caught it, took it down through and threw the van over just below that apple tree over there. It was right up, see the ark off the tree? That was right where the van was, facing this way,” Stone said.
Investigators from the Cortland County Sheriff's department were scouring the scene for any clue as to what might have caused the separation.
There are normally safeguards in place to prevent the trailer from separating. So far, investigators for the sheriff's and State Police aren't ready to say what might have happened.
“Nothing that jumps right out at you. Obviously, something made the two disconnect. As far as the exact cause, I don't want to jump the gun, so to speak, and say what that cause would be until I know for sure what they're finding,” said Cortland County Sheriff’s Department Captain Mark Helms.
What is clear is the deadly impact of the trailer, carrying compressed automobiles. Seven people in the van were killed.
What is also clear from the early investigation is that little could have been done to avoid the eventual collision.
Helms said, “It appears that it was very instant. I would say that there probably wasn't time for any reactionary maneuver.”
At some point, investigators say they will know precisely what went wrong.
“We're working hard to try to get the answers that I know everybody's waiting to hear. You know. Why? It's just, it's, it's a hard situation,” Helms said.
For now, the investigation goes on.
The driver of the tractor trailer and his passenger were not hurt in the accident. Investigators say no charges have been brought, pending the outcome of their investigation.