The Cortland County Sheriff's Department confirms that seven people were killed in an accident on Route 13 in the Town of Truxton on Wednesday evening.
Cortland County Coroner Whitney Meeker says four children and three adults were killed in the crash.
According to Captain Mark Helms, around 6:05 p.m. Wednesday night a tractor-trailer was driving south on Route 13 when the trailer loaded with crushed cars disconnected from the tractor. The trailer hit a minivan traveling northbound, demolishing the van.
The minivan had eight passengers inside, seven of whom were killed.
Cortland County Sheriff Lee Price says the crash was "one of the worst accidents we've seen in this county in the history of our time." He says there "probably wasn't time for any reactionary maneuver" by the driver of minivan after tractor trailer disconnected.
Investigators say the reason the trailer separated from the cab before the crash was not immediately apparent and remains under investigation.
"Something made the two [cab and trailer] disconnect. But as far as an exact cause, I don't want to say for sure what that cause could be until I know what they are finding," said Captain Mark Helms of the Cortland County Sheriff's Office. The Cortland County Sheriff's Office and State Police Commercial Vehicle Unit are investigating how the cab and trailer broke apart.
Deputies say Teresa Bush, 26, her two daughters Alexis Bush, 4, and Jasmine Bush, 5, were killed in the crash.
Lena Beckwith, 21, Carino Vanorden, 24, Alyssa Mead, 7, and Tyler Mead, 4, also died in the crash. Alyssa was a student at Parker Elementary School in Cortland and Tyler was scheduled to start preschool at Smith Elementary School in the fall.
Shawn Mead, 31, the father of the two Mead children, survived the crash and was taken to Upstate Medical Center. He was in good condition on Thursday and out of the hospital by Friday morning.
Deputies say all of the victims were local residents of Cortland County with the exception of Carino Vanorder who was from Fayetteville.
Deputies say the tractor trailer was driven by 26-year-old Ryan Dorward, of Manlius. Duane Newton, 44, was a passenger in the truck. Neither were injured in the crash.
Sheriff Price says Dorward is talking with Cortland County investigators and has been cooperative.
Truxton Fire Department Assistant Chief Ken Stone describes the scene immediately following the crash as one of total carnage. He says emergency responders are gathering at the fire station and a pastor will be working with them. Stone says bodies were in and out of the vehicle. He says it was the worst trauma they have ever seen.
"The car was destroyed. There was bodies everywhere," said Stone.
The investigation is continuing at this time.
Route 13 between Crains Mills Road and West Keeney Road reopened to traffic around 1:20 a.m. Thursday, more than seven hours after the collision.
The crash scene is approximately 25 miles south of Syracuse.