Five people were killed and 25 were injured when a bus carrying farmworkers collided with a tractor trailer causing both vehicles to burst into flames Saturday on a highway in the Panhandle, sheriff's officials said.
Deputies responded to a gruesome and chaotic scene as the front and the back of the bus were on fire when they arrived.
The Blue Bird bus from Georgia, carrying about 34 adults and children, ran a flashing red light before hitting the tractor trailer, spinning around and hitting the semi again.
One of the bus passengers killed was a small child. The driver of the semi-truck, Gordon Sheets, 55 of Copiague, New York, also died, said Wakulla County Sheriff Charlie Creel.
"Our deputies are heroes ... our deputies got on the bus and started pulling people off, people that were not able to get off by themselves. They pulled out two deceased victims,'' Creel said.
According to Creel, deputies continued to rescue victims until the bus was fully engulfed in flames, forcing them to stop.
"If these deputies had not done that, we would have had a lot more fatalities,'' the sheriff said in a phone interview.
Fire officials had to wait for the area's power to be shut off in order to douse the flames as both vehicles were resting against live wires. The two vehicles eventually burned out, Creel said.
The Tallahassee Democrat reported the intersection was strewn with bloody medical gear, clothing, pillows and coolers packed with food littered the road. The accident happened on US-98, a highway that follows the Florida coast around the Gulf of Mexico.
No one on the bus spoke English and authorities had to bring in interpreters, Creel said.
Florida Highway Patrol officials were also investigating the wreck and were in the processing of notifying victims' family members.
The driver of the bus, 56-year-old Elie Dupiche of Belle Glade, was hospitalized in critical condition. A passenger in the semi-truck, 21-year-old Rafael Nieves of Sound Beach, New York, was not injured, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.