Archive

ShareThis Page
5 family members killed on ‘dream trip’ to Disney | TribLIVE.com
News

5 family members killed on ‘dream trip’ to Disney

The Associated Press
DeadlyCrashJPEG0f61c
This photo provided by the Louisiana State Police shows the wreckage of a sport utility vehicle that was involved in an accident that killed five people in Calhoun, La., Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. A 16-year-old boy driving relatives from Texas to a vacation in Disney World apparently fell asleep at the wheel, causing the vehicle to veer off the highway and roll over, killing three children and two adults, authorities said Thursday. (AP Photo/Louisiana State Police)

NEW ORLEANS — Michael and Trudi Hardman had always talked about taking their six children to Disney World, and just a week before Thanksgiving, it seemed their “dream trip” was to be a reality.

But just a little more than three hours after they took to the road Wednesday night, their SUV veered off a highway and rolled over in Louisiana, killing them and three of the kids.

Police believe the couple’s 16-year-old son apparently fell asleep behind the wheel of the SUV en route from Terrell, Texas, to Orlando.

The driver, who was not identified, was cited with careless operation, which is a misdemeanor, following the 11 p.m. crash on Interstate 20 near Calhoun, La., State Police spokesman Michael Reichardt said.

Michael Hardman’s brother, Timothy Hardman, said the driver and two passengers were injured, one critically.

The teen driver veered left onto the median and then tried to get back onto the highway but overcorrected, causing the 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe to roll over, police said.

Michael and Trudi Hardman were both primary-school teachers from Terrell. Also killed were sons Dakota Watson, 15, and Adam Hardman, 7; and daughter Kaci Hardman, 4, police said.

None of those killed wore seat belts, but the driver did, officials said.

The distance between Terrell and Orlando is about 1,050 miles — a 16-hour drive. The family left their home in Terrell about 7 or 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to Timothy Hardman, meaning the accident occurred early in the journey.

Michael Hardman was a second-grade teacher at an elementary school, said Terrell Independent School District Superintendent Michael French. He had worked in the district for two years, French said.

Hardman was a little league baseball coach who coached his sons, one of whom, 12-year-old Aaron Hardman, was in critical condition at a Shreveport hospital, Timothy Hardman said.

“He never turned a kid away,” Timothy Hardman said. “Michael probably had the biggest heart of anybody you ever knew. He just loved kids.”

The driver and the other injured passenger were treated at the hospital and released Thursday morning, Hardman said.

French said a counselor contacted the parents of students in Michael Hardman’s class to let them know about his death, and counselors are available to support both staff and students.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family members, colleagues, students and friends,” he said. “We must lift each other up during this difficult time,” French said.

Trudi Hardman was a kindergarten teacher at Wills Point Primary school and had worked for the Wills Point Independent School District for about 10 years, Superintendent Suzanne Blasingame said in an email.

Blasingame said Michael Hardman had formerly taught at Wills Point Primary.

“Our school and community is grieving for this family,” said Blasingame, who had traveled to Louisiana to be with the family.

Timothy Hardman, 38, of Crandall, Texas, said his brother and Trudi Hardman were married about five years ago and had six children between them. Michael Hardman had three boys from a previous marriage, while Trudi Hardman had two boys from a previous marriage, Timothy Hardman said. The couple had a daughter, Kaci, together, he said.

Timothy Hardman, who traveled to Louisiana after he was notified of the accident, said his brother’s family had scheduled the trip about nine months ago and had planned to stay at Disney World for a week.

“They’ve always talked about it,” he said. “It was their dream trip. It was an opportunity for them to take all of their kids.”

Police don’t believe the young driver was impaired, but a toxicology sample was taken. The stretch of I-20 where the deadly crash took place is flat and straight and the weather was clear, they said.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to all of the people affected by this tragic crash,” said Col. Mike Edmonson, the Louisiana State Police superintendent. “In an instance, this family vacation turned into an unspeakable tragedy.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.