Fla. Church Van Crashes; 1 Dead, 14 Injured, Including 2-Y-O Girl

A van, starting from a Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., and headed to Tampa for a church conference, rolled over a few times in Lee County near Ft. Myers, Fla. on Saturday, killing a 20-year-old man and injuring 14 others, including a two-year-old girl.

The deceased was identified as Nostra Damas of North Lauderdale, Fla., according to NBC News. His sister, Melinda Damas, was also on the bus. "That's my little brother," she was quoted as saying. "My little brother's gone. He's passed away."

Four others are said to be in critical condition, three are in serious condition and eight have minor injuries.

All the 15 passengers were church members, and were taken to Lee Memorial, Gulf Coast and Tampa General hospitals in about 10 ambulances and two helicopters.

Those listed as critically injured were identified by local10.com as two-year-old Claudine Aveske, 39-year-old Evelie Jean Francois, 22-year-old Ose Elian and Gertha Petit Frere, 62.

The van was one of the three cars that started from the Maranatha Seventh-day Adventist Church in Lauderhill and were going to a Seventh-day Adventist Church Florida Conference in Tampa.

According to preliminary investigation, the van veered off to the emergency lane and then rolled over after the left rear tire blew out at about 7.30 am near Corkscrew Road on Interstate 75, authorities said. When the van came to a halt, it was on its roof.

"The tire blew off and then the car lost control, I tried to control it, and then it flipped over," driver Nola Phanor was quoted as saying.

Jean Robert Fede, the driver of another van, witnessed the crash. "I see the van skid around," he was quoted as saying. "It skid around one time, a second time and flipped over."

"The people from that van told us that they saw the accident," church clerk Enuce Charles was quoted as saying. "People flying all over. It was very bad unfortunately."

It was not clear if the passengers were wearing seat belts.

It was the second accident on I-75 on Saturday. A Greyhound bus overturned near Cincinnati in Ohio, injuring 37 people and critically wounding four.