ELIZABETHTOWN, KY - Police say six members of an extended Wisconsin family were killed and two injured when their SUV was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer and burst into flames on a Kentucky highway. Minutes later, another crash in the opposite direction injured three, one critically.
Police say the first crash happened at 11:13 a.m. EST Saturday on northbound Interstate 65 near Elizabethtown.
Police say all occupants of the SUV were from Marion, Wis. They were identified as James Gollnow, 62, and his wife Barbara, 62; Marion Champnise, 92; Sarina Gollnow, 18; Soledad Smith, 8; and Gabriel Zumiga, 10.
Police said Soledad and Gabriel were foster children.
The two survivors were also foster children. Police identified them as Hope Hoth, 15, who was transported to a hospital in Lexington with burns and a broken spine; and Aidian Ejnik, 12, who was taken to Kosair Children's Hospital in Louisville with cuts to the back of his head.
Police say after the SUV was hit, it hit the car in front of it, but the driver of that vehicle had only minor injuries.
The SUV was ``totally engulfed in flames. It was totally destroyed by the fire,'' Master Trooper Norman Chaffins said, adding, ``It's just a charred mess.''
He said one eyewitness told police two people emerged from the blaze and one appeared to be on fire.
The two crashes shut down the busy stretch of highway for about five hours.
Chaffins says despite snow flurries, weather was not a factor in either crash.
The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured and was cooperating with police, Chaffins said. He was not identified.
``He's obviously pretty torn up about everything,'' he said.
MERRILL - For 32 years Battalion Chief Mike Drury walked into the Merrill Fire Department ready to save lives. Friday he walked out of the department for the last time to start the new phase of his life. "It goes fast it goes really fast," said Drury. Drury was about 18 -years -old when he walked into the Merrill Fire Department for the first time. "When you're 18, 19,20 years old and you're looking at 50 something years old you think you're never going to get there," said Drury.
Drury is one of 184 firefighters to ever work full time with the city of Merrill. "As a firefighter they spend a lot of time at the fire house so they miss a lot of things," said Drury's daughter Cassi. After 32 years of missing birthdays, holidays and family time Drury was ready for a change. "I realized I had enough this is a young man's job," said Drury. Friday afternoon Drury said goodbye to a room of men who merged and became family. "Not having that is a little scary I know they'll always be our family but it's hard to leave," said Cassi. Cassi watched her dad rush off to help his community since the day she was born. "It's scary because you hear about the times things don't go right or the times fire fighters don't come home," said Cassi.
RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander couple thought they were empty nesters. However, an experience volunteering made them open their doors back up to kids who need a temporary home. The Zoerb's adult children moved out years ago. But at any moment they could get a call from social services that make them bring out their parenting skills for another round. Rick and Danielle Zoerb work together as realtors putting people in homes that are the perfect fit. However, the husband and wife know their home can be a good fit for others too. "There's no reason for kids to have to fall through the cracks," said Dani. Rick met a child at a mentorship program a few years ago. It was a meeting that opened a new door for him and his wife. "There was no hesitation on our part when we felt the situation was deteriorating for this young boy," said Rick.
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