Last Sunday night a cargo van carrying members of the Independent Haitian Assembly of God church were travelling back from a convention in Fort Myers on Highway 27 near Lake Okechobee. The road has a stop sign and low lighting which seems to have caused the driver to cross 4 lanes of traffic and miss a curve going straight into a ditch. There were 18 people in the van which has a seating capacity of 15. Three women and five men were killed by the plunge into a shallow canal. A four year old child has been released from a Lee county hospital with minor injuries. One of the passengers, Nozaire Nore said that the driver could not see on the dark road, the curve or the stop sign- Nore now has a broken leg from the accident.
A 911 call was placed by a driver who could hear the cries from the embankment begging for help. Fortunately, he listened to those cries and found the van among the bush with bodies inside. Initially the church members were going to take their brand new bus on the trip, but they didn’t have enough people to fill the bus so they opted for the older Dodge. The intersection of State Road 78 and Highway 27 is T-shaped with a stop sign and no lighting. The roads in that area are very close to Lake Okechobee and are surrounded by a 10 foot embankment where the van came to rest. The cause of the accident is under investigation. Officials have not ruled out mechanical failure, poor street lighting, distraction or sleepiness on the driver’s part. No matter what caused the accident, it is a tragedy and one of the highest fatality counts from one vehicle in Florida.
The child was not wearing a seat belt, it is unknown at this time if the adults were buckled up. When driving on rural roads all drivers must be fully aware of their surroundings and careful not to over-correct large vehicles that may skid off the asphalt. The church is supporting the families of the victims through vigils, song, and prayer. We wish them all strength and faith in this sad time.