ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) - A mother and her two children are dead following an accident on Interstate 95 that happened after a car struck an alligator in the middle of the road, according to the South Carolina Highway Patrol.
Highway Patrol troopers say that accident happened in the northbound lane of I-95 near mile marker 86 around 12:49 a.m. Monday when the driver of a 2011 Kia Soul struck the alligator.
Amber Stanley, 24, along with her 4-year-old son, Jack, and her 2-year-old daughter, Autumn, all from Callahan, FL, all died of thermal injuries due to the vehicle fire.
Josh Stanley, now the sole survivor of his family, said he was working out of town as his wife and two children traveled through South Carolina. Stanley says the trio were headed to Myrtle Beach for a getaway.
"I know what happened, but I'm still kind of processing though," Stanley said. "I'll be walking around and I'll just see somebody out of the corner of my eye and I'll be like it's him but I know it's not, it's just the first thing my brain goes to."
The car, investigators said, then ran off the left side of the road, hit a tree, and caught fire.
No others were injured.
Josh said the last time he spoke to his wife was when he was boarding a flight in Atlanta.
"The last time I talked to my wife was when I landed in Atlanta for my connecting flight. I talked to her and told her I loved her," he said.
After hearing from SC officials, Pennsylvania state troopers located him and delivered the news that his family had died.
"When I landed in Pennsylvania I tried calling and calling. I was worried because I knew her and the kids were on the road headed up to Myrtle Beach," Stanley said. "The state troopers came by where I was training for work and they told me."
Andrew Grosse, an alligator biologist with the Department of Natural Resources, said alligators tend to move around during April and May because it's the peak of mating season.
"They're going to try and be in water somehow when they're moving but I would bet that they do especially at night, more of them cross," Grosse said. "I know certain places on 95 that have a little bit of water and a median in the middle and they're probably some that kind of zip across there pretty quickly."
Josh said funeral services will be held on Sunday, which would have been his wife's 25th birthday.
"I just want everybody to know how wonderful they were. I just wanted somebody to know about them," Stanley said. "I don't understand why it happened. Just a quick instant out of nowhere just took my whole family away. I'm grateful for every single second I had with them but I'd trade anything for a few more."