5 Die in Wreck on Family ‘Dream Trip' to Disney World

Three children and two adults were killed when a North Texas family's vehicle veered off the interstate and rolled over during a family trip to Disney World, Louisiana state police said. 

The family's 2005 Chevrolet Tahoe was driven by 16-year-old Andrew Hardman, who likely fell asleep at the wheel just before 11 p.m. Wednesday on Interstate 20 near Calhoun, state police spokesman Michael Reichardt said.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to all of the people affected by this tragic crash," said Colonel Mike Edmonson, Louisiana State Police Superintendent.

The Wreck

Troopers said the teen drove left into the median and then tried to turn back onto the highway but overcorrected, causing the SUV to roll over. The driver, who Reichardt said was wearing his seatbelt, was taken to a nearby hospital with minor injuries.

Authorities identified the adults killed as Michael and Trudi Hardman of Terrell. The children killed were Kaci Hardman, 4, Adam Hardman, 7, and Dakota Watson, 15.

Three children who wore seatbelts survived the crash. The 16-year-old driver, Andrew, and 12-year-old Hunter Watson were treated at a nearby hospital and released Thursday, according to Michael Hardman's brother Timothy. Aaron Hardman, 12, is in critical condition at a Shreveport hospital.

Authorities said six people who weren't wearing seat belts were ejected from the vehicle.

"I cannot stress enough the importance of wearing a seat belt anytime you are in a vehicle," Edmonson said.

The crash remains under investigation. Andrew Hardman was charged with misdemeanor careless operation of a vehicle following the crash, Reichardt said.

The Hardmans

Michael Hardman was a second-grade teacher at John F. Kennedy Elementary School and Trudi, 41, was a kindergarten teacher at Willis Point Primary School, district officials said. Michael was also his sons' little league baseball coach.

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

Timothy Hardman said his brother married Trudi about five years ago. Michael had three boys from a previous marriage, while Trudi had two boys from a previous marriage. The couple had a daughter, Kaci, together, he said.

"Our hearts ache as we try to wrap our minds around the tragic loss of our beautiful, blended family," Trudi Hardman's stepbrother D.J. Hart said.

Timothy Hardman said his brother's family 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."

The Aftermath

Terrell Independent School District Superintendent Michael French said a counselor contacted the parents of students in Michael Hardman's class to let them know about his death, and counselors also 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.

The family has set up a GoFundMe account to help the family pay with burials, medical expenses and to prepare for the future for the three surviving children

"The loving family of 8 was looking forward to spending Thanksgiving break at the happiest place on earth: Walt Disney World," Hart said. "En route, God had other plans as 5 members of our family are now enjoying an even happier place."

More: Hardman Childrens Fund on GoFundMe.com

NBC 5's Ken Kalthoff and Holley Ford and AP writers Cain Burdeau and Jamie Stengle contributed to this report.

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