North Texas teachers, children killed on trip to Disney

Two North Texas teachers and three of their children were killed late Wednesday night while driving through Louisiana for a Disney vacation.

Trudi and Michael Hardman died in the single-vehicle crash on Interstate 20 just west of Calhoun, La.

Trudi was a kindergarten teacher at Wills Point Primary School, and Michael taught second grade at JFK Elementary in Terrell.

Three of the couple's children - 4-year-old Kaci Hardman, 7-year-old Adam Hardman and 15-year-old Dakota Watson, were also killed. Police said none of the people who died were wearing seatbelts.

Their sons Hunter Watson, Aaron Hardman and Andrew Hardman survived, but 12-year-old Aaron remains hospitalized in intensive care in Shreveport.

The 16-year-old driving the family, Andrew Hardman, likely fell asleep at the wheel and left the road. He over-corrected and the family's Chevy Tahoe began rolling, police said.

Andrew Hardman was initially cited for careless operation of a vehicle, according to a state police spokesman. He did have a driver's license, according to authorities.

But a northeast Louisiana prosecutor said Saturday he was dismissing the ticket.

"This young man has been punished enough," District Attorney Jerry Jones told Louisiana newspaper The Advertiser. "There is no need to add to his pain. The ticket will be dismissed."

Louisiana State Police said that the horrific crash happened shortly before midnight on Wednesday. Police said six of the eight people in the SUV were not wearing a seatbelt and were ejected.

"Our heartfelt condolences go out to all of the people affected by this tragic crash," said Colonel Mike Edmonson with Louisiana State Police. "Crashes like this one don't just affect the people involved. They affect family members, friends, troopers, first responders and the community at large. In an instance this family vacation turned into an unspeakable tragedy. I cannot stress enough the importance of wearing a seatbelt anytime you are in a vehicle."

The family was reportedly on their way to Walt Disney World in Orlando.

"These kids and parents were active in the school and in the Wills Point Baseball Association. This was a wonderful family and was loved by all the kids that these wonderful teachers touched," The Van Zandt Co Fire Marshal's Office posted on Facebook.

Terrell ISD's superintendent described Michael Hardman as a dedicated teacher.

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

Wills Point ISD said the impact of the tragedy is far reaching and affects each campus in the district.

"Words cannot express the sadness in our hearts today," said Superintendent Suzanne Blasengame.

At least 250 people, including neighbors, friends and colleagues paid tribute to the Hardman family at a candlelight vigil Thursday night at the Wills Point baseball fields.

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