The vehicle held 18 people and was pulling a trailer when it crashed Sunday around 9 a.m. on Interstate 35 in northeast Kansas, theKansas Highway Patrol said. It hit a guardrail and concrete bridge rail before crashing into a creek ravine near the small town of Williamsburg, which is located about 70 miles southwest of Kansas City, Mo. Debris was strewn around the crumpled Freightliner box truck, which had living quarters inside.
The survivors were sent to several surrounding hospitals. One of the hospitals, Overland Park Regional Medical Center, was treating Pauline Kerber, a 46-year-old widowed mother of 12 from Jordan, Minn., who was in critical but stable condition, and her 17-year-old son, Adam Kerber, who was in critical condition.
The hospital released a statement Sunday night on behalf of the family thanking the public for the "outpouring of love and support."
"We appreciate the prayers of so many, and appreciate you respecting our privacy as we mourn our deep loss," said the statement from the hospital, which also treated a critically injured 8-year-old boy before transferring him to a children's hospital. By Sunday night, at least five of the victims had been released from other hospitals in Topeka, Olathe and Ottawa.
The crash is under investigation. Trooper Don Hughes said he couldn't immediately release the names, ages or hometowns of the victims because their relatives were still being notified.
But John Marks, a close family friend of the Kerbers, told The Star Tribune in Minnesota that relatives had told him the dead include four of the Kerber children and one woman.
Kirk Nelson, superintendent of Jordan Public School District in Minnesota, said students had last week off for spring break, and students were scheduled to return Monday. The district planned to have several additional grief counselors and ministers on hand.
"It's a big shock to everybody, that's for sure," he said. "We've got some good staff, and they'll all come together," he said. "We'll get started on healing."