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Two families are ripped apart when children, mothers die in car fire on 5 Freeway near Gorman

Two families are ripped apart when children, mothers die in car fire on 5 Freeway near Gorman
A heavy-duty tow truck retrieves a van in which six people died after it was struck by a big rig and burst into flames on the 5 Freeway near Gorman on Tuesday morning. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

It could be at least another day before the bodies of two mothers and four children who died when their van caught fire after a crash on the 5 Freeway are identified because they were so badly burned, authorities said.

The six victims were in a minivan that was partially blocking the far-right lane on the southbound side of the freeway near Gorman when it was rear-ended by a big rig traveling at 55 mph. The minivan rolled over and caught fire on the side of the road at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, the California Highway Patrol said.

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Authorities said the van was packed with two Bay Area families – two children and two parents each. When the van rolled over and burst into flames the children and their mothers were in the rear seats.

The men sitting in the front tried to save them from the flames but were held back by CHP officers. The two survivors were identified as Aaron Hon Wing Ng, 34, of San Francisco and Wei Xiong Li, 45, of Daly City. Both men suffered serious burns to their arms from trying to rescue their loved ones, the CHP said.

They were airlifted to a hospital.

"When we arrived on scene, we saw the van starting to catch fire. We saw the husbands came running up to us, told us their families were in the vehicle still," CHP Officer Dan Williams told KABC-TV. "My partner went and tried to get in through the van door. The flames came at him, he had to back out. I grabbed the fire extinguisher … but we were unable to assist in getting anyone out of the van."

The van was stopped after a minor collision with a sedan when it was struck by the big rig, the CHP said.

"I can't even describe it. You pull up and see the victims inside — it's heartbreaking," said Capt. Keith Mora of the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

There have been no arrests and the investigation is ongoing.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna on Twitter.

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