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Father speaks after family dies in wreck with alligator on I-95 in South Carolina

An alligator struck on a roadway (WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - A Florida father is dealing with an unimaginable tragedy after his wife and two children were killed in a freak accident in Orangeburg County. It happened around 1 a.m. Monday near Holly Hill, where I-95 and I-26 meet.

Officials said the car struck a nine-foot-long alligator, ran off the road into a tree, then caught fire.

The coroner identified the victims as 24-year-old Amber Stanley, four-year-old Jack Stanley and two-year-old Autumn Stanley. The family is from Callahan, Fla.

"It's been hard," said Josh Stanley, the husband and father of the victims. "I know what happened, but I'm still kind of processing though. I'll turn around and it's not Jack or Autumn but for a split second, you know? It's just like my brain sort of expects them to be there but I know they're not, so it's just been really hard."

Stanley said the three were returning home from a trip to Myrtle Beach, S.C.

"The main time they're moving is right now when it's cooler and then in the fall as well," said Andrew Grosse, an Alligator biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

While alligator strikes are not common, he said they're capable of doing a lot of damage.

"Imagine a fallen tree in the road," said Grosse. "You're talking about an animal that's maybe this big around and if it's a male, it's probably a little beefier than that, it's like running over a fallen tree that's in the middle of the road and on an interstate, that's just a lot for any vehicle to have to go over."

Grosse said alligators move around a lot in April and May, which is the peak of mating season.

"They're going to try and be in water somehow when they're moving but I would bet that they do especially at night, more of them cross," he said. "I know certain places on I-95 that have a little bit of water and a median in the middle and they're probably some that kind of zip across there pretty quickly."

Gross said development is pushing alligators into new areas but added encounters usually drop in the summer when gators tend to stay in one place to avoid the heat.

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