UPDATE: Four people remain in the hospital at Lee Memorial. Their conditions range from fair to critical. Several others were taken to hospitals around the state.
GLADES COUNTY, Fla. – Eight people are dead and 10 others injured after an early morning church van crash. The Florida Highway Patrol tells WINK News this happened around 12:30 Monday morning on SR 78 and US 27.
FHP says the van was heading east on SR 78 when it passed through a stop sign and traveled into a steep water-filled canal.
Eighteen people were in the 15-passenger van when it crashed. The driver and seven passengers died on scene.
One of those killed was the driver of the van, Phillipe Docce’s father-in-law.
“A really sweet, sweet, guy, loving person. Whoever sees him, would love him. Just the way he was,” said Docce.
Ten others were taken to area hospitals, including five at Lee Memorial Hospital. Several have been released, including a 4-year-old.
The group was returning from a church convention in Fort Myers. All were members of the Independent Haitian Assembly of God, they were traveling back to Fort Pierce where the church is located.
“Pray together, in church together, singing together, now they gon,” said church member Roseline Jacques.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Dina Sarver, a friend and fellow church member, of those in the van. “Because it is so many of us. You know there are people there at the church waiting, we’re two hours away, it was supposed to be a simple go, have fun, come back. It just didn’t turn out to be like that.”