Florida mom, 2 kids die after car hits alligator in South Carolina

A Florida mom and her two children, looking forward to a relaxing weekend in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, instead died in a fiery crash early Monday morning when their vehicle hit a 9-foot alligator crossing a highway, authorities said.

Amber Stanley, 24, and her kids, Jack, 4, and Autumn, 2, were driving down Interstate 95, near the Interstate 26 exit, just before 1 a.m. Monday when Stanley's vehicle struck the alligator, said Sean D. Fogle, the Chief Deputy Coroner with the Orangeburg County Coroner's Office.

The family’s car ran off the side of the road, slammed into a tree and caught fire, killing all three inside. Stanley and her two children died from thermal injuries, Fogle said.

Amber Stanley was driving when her vehicle hit an alligator, causing the car to go off the road. The vehicle slammed into a tree and burst into flames.

Amber Stanley was driving when her vehicle hit an alligator, causing the car to go off the road. The vehicle slammed into a tree and burst into flames. (Josh Stanley)

Stanley’s husband, Josh Stanley, told FOX30 he was in Pennsylvania for work when his wife and children died. The trio had decided to go for a weekend trip at the time of their death.

“It’s been hard. I mean, I know it happened. I’m still kind of processing though,” the devastated husband said. “I’ll be walking around and I’ll just, like, see something out of the corner of my eye, I go, ‘that’s Amber,’ and I know it’s not, but it’s just the first thing my brain goes to. Or, some kids say ‘dad’ or something.”

The Stanleys were from Callahan, Fla., a town northwest of Jacksonville. Josh Stanley said his wife loved visiting the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and he'd like to arrange a memorial there for his wife and kids.

South Carolina Highway Patrol said it’s investigating the crash, The State reported.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.