Seven Dead After Truck Plows Into Church Van Going To Disney World

Five of the victims of a horrific crash were on their way to Disney World.

"CBS This Morning" has obtained jarring new video of the moment a semi-truck plowed into a church van killing seven people in January near Gainesville, Florida.

The footage is a key piece of the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation, which is now in the midst of determining the probable cause of the crash. The agency had not been able to immediately to deploy to the scene because of the government shutdown.

Five of the victims were on their way to Disney World. Image: CBS

As federal investigators try to determine the cause, we're hearing for the first time from someone who was inside the van.

"I remember closing my eyes and thinking this is it. We're gonna die," Ali Laborde told CBS News' Kris Van Cleave.

Laborde — 31 weeks pregnant — was a chaperone in the church van headed for Disney World on Jan. 3. She woke up on the pavement bloodied, surrounded by debris, the burning 18-wheeler and bodies.

Seven Dead After Truck Plowed Into A Church Van. Image: CBS

"I kept telling myself, 'everyone's okay. They're just hurt.' I didn't realise the severity. I didn't realise that there were five children that there weren't alive," Laborde said.

Her 13-year-old daughter Cara and Cara's cousin Cierra were among those five young lives lost on Interstate 75 that day. Ages nine to 14, all were from the same small Louisiana town of Marksville. They'd saved up for the Disney World trip for a year. Laborde learned of her daughter's death from her hospital bed.

"I said, 'No, I don't want you tell me. I don't want to hear that. I don't want you to tell me that my daughter's gone. I don't want you to tell that she's not here anymore," Laborde said.

Her other daughter, Chelsey, survived but she'll wear the scars from the accident forever. Laborde and other survivors are now suing, alleging negligence and wrongful death. Lawyer Kurt Arnold, who represents most of the victims, believes the accident was entirely preventable.

Lawyer Kurt Arnold, who represents most of the victims, believes the accident was entirely preventable. Image: CBS

"That Eagle Express truck came at that van like a missile," Arnold said. "If you've looked at this dashcam, this should've never happened."

One of Laborde's cherished memories is a video of the day she told Cara, Chelsey and her son Carson that they were going to have a little sister. Cara, who hoped to be a math teacher one day, used her Christmas money to buy presents for the sister she never got to know. The packages were waiting for Laborde when she got home from the hospital.

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"I feel such a weight, such a heaviness. I feel like I'm living a nightmare, like I'm living someone else's life," she said.

But despite all that day's horror, baby Cambrie wasn't hurt. Just weeks later, she was born healthy and happy. Her name means angel. A miracle born of tragedy.

Via email, Eagle Express Lines General Counsel Aaron Gunderson confirmed the company is a contracted postal carrier. He told CBS News that the company "meets or exceeds all federal regulations as well as the more strident requirements of the U.S. Postal Service. We take safety very seriously."

"Mr. Holland was an excellent driver and had driven this same route hundreds of times. He is deeply missed by his friends and family. It appears that he suffered a sudden medical emergency that rendered him unconscious, thus leading to the accident."

Image: CBS/ Antonio Irizarry

Eagle Express Lines CEO Wayne Hoovestol said his company was "deeply saddened by this tragic accident.  We continue to mourn the loss of life, including our former colleague Steve Holland, and the impact it's had on so many lives."

"The families remain in our thoughts and prayers."

The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating and thus has not commented on any factors that may have caused the crash.