SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — A Mid-South family says three of their loved ones were killed in a fiery crash on East Shelby Drive near Hacks Cross Road Friday night.
Brittany Motlow said Sunday that her brother Alfred Motlow, 19, his girlfriend Aniya Brown, 20, and their friend Katie Coleman, 18, were all killed.
Another passenger, Maricus Murdock, 19, is in critical condition at Regional One, according to a hospital spokesperson.
The Motlows say the other victims may not have been blood-related, but they were like family.
"These kids have been with me since they were little – eating dinner, eating breakfast, spending the night. I was a mother to them," said Alfred Motlow's mother, Jean Motlow. "And so, not only did I lose my son, but I’m praying that Maricus pulls through.”
Shelby County Sheriff's Office Spokesperson Earle Farrell initially told WREG a woman and two children were killed in the crash.
“There were three people in the initial car – a woman and two adolescents," he said on the scene Friday. "Everybody in the initial car was severely burned. It's one of the worst I've ever seen."
Farrell said one car hit another head-on, sending both bursting into flames, and then a third car crashed into both of those cars.
At the time, Farrell also said four other people were in critical condition at the hospital, which he reiterated Sunday, but didn't release the names of those victims.
The family tells WREG that Alfred Motlow, Brown and Coleman were killed on the scene, and that only Murdock made it out of the truck alive because he was thrown from it during the impact.
Farrell said Saturday he couldn't confirm that information because none of the victims had been officially identified, but said a woman showed up at the hospital Friday saying there were more victims who weren't being reported on the news.
Brittany and Jane Motlow tell WREG they were the ones who showed up at the hospital, because even though the initial reports said a woman and two kids were the ones killed, they had managed to piece together that their loved ones were involved in the crash.
The crash happened less than a half mile from their home, and Brittany Motlow said she had an "eerie feeling" after seeing the accident coverage on the news, because her brother hadn't come home and neither he nor his girlfriend or friends answered their phones or posted anything to social media for hours.
“Kind of just watching it, my first thought was, ‘I hope that’s not my brother,' she said. "And I’ve never seen anything like that and had that thought.”
Once the family called the non-emergency number, they said they were put in touch with an investigator who told them that three people had been killed, and matched Alfred Motlow's car model to wreckage found on the scene.
"He said it was an older model Ford Explorer and there were four kids in the car," Jean Motlow said.
He also told them one person had survived.
"And as a mother, you just want to hope that that one is yours," she said.
But once they arrived at the hospital, they found out Murdock was the only survivor from her son's car.
Just hours earlier, Alfred Motlow and his mother had spoken for the last time.
"He called me to thank me for everything that I’d done for him, and that he loved me," Jean Motlow said. "It was the way that he said it. It was as if it was his final ‘I love you,’ because he said it with so much passion."
Farrell said the victims' bodies were so badly burned, they haven't been positively identified yet.
"I don’t have much to bury," Jean Motlow said. "I have to identify my son by dental records. I can’t touch his face, I can’t bend over his casket and even kiss him goodbye. There’s nothing left of him."
But the family is finding comfort in their memories.
"I hope everyone that he touched just remember the good things about him and not how he died," Brittany Motlow said.
"He was just a beautiful young man, just funny, would always make you laugh. Sometimes just too silly. And you’d have to admire that in him. I certainly did," Jean Motlow said.
Alfred Motlow and Brown were both sophomores and engineering majors at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, Florida, according to family. She said they were in town visiting family and were supposed to be leaving to head back to school Saturday morning.