21 injured after car hits packed church

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Copy of IOL crime tape mar 19 [5] [1]

Independent Newspapers

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Fort Myers, Florida - A car slammed into a packed Florida church just as its annual Easter concert was about to begin, injuring 21 people as it barrelled through the brick outer wall and several rows of pews, Fort Myers police said.

The Lexus sedan struck the Second Haitian Baptist Church at around 8pm on Sunday, when there were about 200 people inside, Lt. Victor Medico said.

When officers arrived at the scene, church members used car jacks to lift the vehicle off of people who were trapped underneath, according to the News-Press of Fort Myers.

Investigators are looking into the crash even though they believe it was “an unfortunate traffic accident.”

“Everybody was sitting and the service started and then 'BING' the car came in,” said Jean Corjeles, who was in the church when the crash happened.

“So many people are injured,” he said.

Medico said the driver, a young Haitian woman, told investigators she was looking for a parking spot when the car malfunctioned and it drove “straight into the building,” adding that she said the car's brakes malfunctioned.

Even though the car drove through an exterior wall and into the building, the structure isn't in danger of collapsing, said both Medico and Benjamin Abes, Lee County's EMS operations chief.

Lee Memorial health System spokeswoman Mary Biggs said 18 people were taken to Lee County hospitals and one was discharged late Sunday. She said none required surgery.

Word of the crash spread quickly in the area and friends and relatives gathered in the parking lot.

“I had family in the church but I don't know if they're hurt,” said Eddy Boice. “They didn't call me and I can't call them.”

A car slammed into a packed Florida church just as its annual Easter concert was about to begin, barrelling through its brick outer wall and several rows of pews and injuring about 20 people, authorities said.

The car struck the Second Haitian Baptist Church on Sunday night, when about 200 people were inside, Fort Myers police Lt. Victor Medico said. When officers arrived, church members were using car jacks to lift the vehicle off of people who were trapped beneath the vehicle, The (Fort Myers) News-Press reported.

“Everybody was sitting and the service started and then 'BING' the car came in,” said Jean Corjeles, who was in the church when the crash happened.

“So many people are injured,” he said.

Medico said the driver, a young Haitian woman, told investigators she was looking for a parking spot when the car malfunctioned and it drove “straight into the building,” adding that she said the car's brakes malfunctioned.

Lee Memorial health System spokeswoman Mary Biggs said 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 are children. - Sapa-AP


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