TOWN OF PELLA - Neighbors in a small Shawano County community say they're stunned to lose six people in this deadly crash in Kentucky.
The crash happened Saturday morning on Interstate 65 outside of Louisville.
Police say a semi truck was following too closely and plowed into an SUV, causing it to burst into flames.
That SUV was carrying eight people, all from the town of Pella. That's south of Shawano.
The victims were James Gollnow, and his wife, Barbara, both 62; their 18-year-old daughter Sereena, a 92-year-old friend Marion Chapnoise, and foster children 10-year-old Gabriel Zumig and 8-year-old Soledad Smith.
Two other foster children survived the crash, but were hospitalized with injuries.
"I was completely in shock. I wasn't expecting such a thing. I'd just been thinking about them that day," said Deb Rades.
Rades says she expected her neighbors, the Gollnows, to return home from a Florida vacation this weekend.
Instead, she got the news of this deadly SUV crash that killed six of the eight passengers.
"Sereena had posted on Facebook that she was heading back to Wisconsin. She seemed excited to be coming back but sad to be leaving Florida," Rades recalled.
The Gollnows are originally from the Marion area. They'd lived in Florida for nearly a decade before moving back to the area.
Neighbors say Jim and Barb Gollnow moved to the house a few years back. And the laughter of the foster children they were helping to raise could always be heard through the neighborhood.
"Barb and Jim were very caring people. They were always taking in foster kids. They made a lot of difference in the kids they worked with. Barb really, really worked so the kids could have the best they could be given and receive the best help they needed," said Rades.
Rades says she not only lived next door to the family, she'd also had several of their foster children in class at Marion Elementary, where she teaches first grade.
"I'll always remember Gabe's smiling face. Gabriel, he loved reading and he loved talking to people," Rades said. "One of the girls, Soledad, was in second grade, but still, the kids know them. It's a small community. It's a small school so when something happens to somebody everybody knows."
Rades says counselors will be on hand Monday at both Marion Elementary and Marion High School, where the children attended.
And as the adults in this community grieve, they say the toughest task will be explaining the loss to the youngest victims' classmates.
"It's hard for everyone, but it's hard to understand for children when a crash happens and kids that they know kids their age are suddenly gone. It leaves a hole in their lives and they don't understand," she said.
FOX 11 spoke with James Gollnow's brother over the phone Sunday. He didn't want to talk with us for this story, but said funeral arrangements for the family are still pending.
The reason for the crash is still unknown. However, officials say distracted driving is among the causes being investigated.
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