Shocked members of a Florida church gathered Monday to mourn the loss of eight people who died hours earlier when their church van crashed in rural Southwest Florida.
Ten other people were injured in the crash of the van, from the Independent Haitian Assembly of God church in Fort Pierce.
"This is very sad — a tragedy," Philippe Dorce, who said his father-in-law and a cousin died in the crash, told the Palm Beach Post.
Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Lt. Greg Bueno said the van ran through a stop sign early Monday before crossing all lanes of US 27 near Moore Haven, near the banks of Lake Okeechobee. The van continued onto a grassy shoulder, crashing into a steep canal partially filled with water, Bueno said.
"They didn't see that stop sign. They shot right through it," Glades County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Duane Pottorff told the Associate Press. "It was a sad evening."
The group was returning to Fort Pierce from a weekend Palm Sunday revival in Fort Myers. Moore Haven, 55 miles east of Fort Myers, is about 80 miles southwest of Fort Pierce, which is located on Florida's east coast.
The driver, 58-year-old Volsaint Marsaille, and seven passengers were confirmed dead. The other 10 passengers were taken to four local hospitals, with three in a serious condition. A four-year-old passenger was in a stable condition, he said. The injured ranged in age from 4 to 89.
The van, a 2000 Dodge Ram Wagon, has a normal capacity of 15 people.
Survivor Mozaire Nore, who suffered a broken leg, told tcp.com the driver didn't notice a curve in the road and couldn't stop in time.
Church member Linda Dolce told the website her grandmother, Dazilia Joseph, 80, died in the crash. She said Joseph, a mother of 10, arrived from Haiti six years ago.
"She loved singing and helping people," Dolce said. "She was exciting; She was the best lady to us."