- (Photo: Screengrab/USA Today/News-Press.com)
More than 21 people, including at least three children, were injured after a car slammed into a packed church in Fort Myers, Fla., Sunday night just before its annual Easter concert was about to start.
The Lexus sedan crashed into the Second Haitian Baptist Church, which was packed with about 200 people, at around 8 p.m. Sunday, according to The Associated Press.
Police arrived when church members were using car jacks to lift the vehicle to rescue those who were trapped beneath the vehicle, News-Press reported.
"Fellow parishioners used vehicle jacks and brute force to lift the vehicle in order to rescue several others trapped beneath the Lexus sedan while waiting for medics," Fort Myers police said in a statement.
Explaining how the crash took place, police spokesperson Lt. Victor Medico said the driver, identified as a young Haitian woman, turned into the parking lot and was trying to park. But she drove straight into the building, as the brakes allegedly malfunctioned. "The car failed to turn into the space and crashed into pews holding 30 to 40 people."
More than 10 ambulances responded to the scene.
"It just obliterated the pews that were there," Naples News quoted EMS operations chief Benjamin Abes as saying. He described the building as a single-story business plaza with a unit that had been converted into a church, and added that the structure is not in danger of collapsing.
"At this point, the investigation is being treated as a very unfortunate accident rather than a criminal act," Medico added.
"Everybody was sitting and the service started and then 'BING' the car came in," Jean Corjeles, who was in the church at the time, was quoted as saying. "So many people are injured."
Nicholas Plancher, another church member, added, "I heard the building pop and saw a car pushing in."
Rey Louie, whose friend Joseph Shooby is a member of the church, said, of his friend, "He has a hole in his head and his dad hasn't regained consciousness."
According to Lee Memorial health System spokeswoman Mary Biggs, 18 people were taken to Lee County hospitals, including four trauma patients. One of those four was later discharged. At least three of those injured Sunday are children. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening.