MOORE HAVEN, Fla. (AP) — A church van ran through a stop sign, crossed all four lanes of a rural highway and crashed into in a canal, killing eight people and injuring 10 early Monday in southwest Florida, authorities said.
“They didn’t see that stop sign. They shot right through it,” Glades County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Duane Pottorff said. “It was a sad evening.”
The van was heading back to church in Fort Pierce, north of West Palm Beach on the Atlantic coast, after a weekend convention in Fort Meyers, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.
Eighteen people were onboard when the van crashed about 12:30 a.m. Monday, said Lt. Gregory S. Bueno of the Highway Patrol.
A 911 call came in at 12:31 a.m., and deputies arrived four minutes later, officials said. The van had gone down an eight-to-10 foot embankment and landed in shallow water of the canal, which is lined with tall grass and weeds.
The driver and seven passengers died. The 10 other passengers were taken to four hospitals.
Among them was a 4-year-old child in stable condition. At least two patients were classified as trauma alerts, and at least one passenger had been released. Other passengers’ conditions ranged from serious to stable.
Bueno said that at the time of the crash, it wasn’t foggy at the crash scene in Glades County, west of Lake Okeechobee. The T-intersection is surrounded by farmland.
On Monday morning, the van — with “Independent Haitian Church of Reformation” written on its side — had been loaded onto the back of a flatbed truck. The front of the van was smashed in, and the door had been removed.