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A series of crashes and tragedies on a North Carolina interstate

A series of crashes on a North Carolina interstate highway has resulted in a tragic loss of life. Five people were killed - including two preteen girls and their mother and father - in the chain-reaction crashes on Interstate 485 in Charlotte.

There were three motor vehicle crashes that happened moments apart. The trio of collisions involved a total of four vehicles, officials said.

The initial collision occurred when a car traveling at an "extremely high rate of speed" crashed into the back of a box truck. The drivers of the car and truck lost control and the vehicles went into the median.

The box truck went through the median wire cable and into the inner loop and oncoming traffic. That's where it slammed head-on into the SUV carrying the family. All four inside the SUV - the mother, father and their two daughters, 7 and 12 - died in that crash.

A TV station reporter spoke with the mother's sister, who said, "Just a wonderful beautiful family, full of life. They'll be missed dearly by a lot of people."

The family was headed to a Fourth of July camping trip when a box truck slammed head-on into their SUV.

"They had their whole lives ahead of them," the mother's sister said.

The two girls had an older brother, 14, who was not in the vehicle.

The box truck also hit a second vehicle, killing an Indian Trail man. A passenger inside that second vehicle was seriously injured.

The box truck driver was hospitalized with broken ribs and a broken wrist, officials said.

According to news reports, the driver of the speeding vehicle that apparently triggered the chain-reaction is hospitalized with a broken neck. Law enforcement officials said the person will face charges after being released from the hospital.

Early the next morning, a trooper who was helping investigate the deadly crashes parked his patrol cruiser to block traffic. The trooper was critically injured when an approaching car attempted to swerve around his parked vehicle, but instead smashed into it. The cruiser then struck the trooper.

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