These Are the Victims of the Florida Church Van Crash, Including 5 Kids — None Older Than 14
Authorities have confirmed the names of the victims — including five children — killed Thursday in a crash involving a church van heading to Disney World
The Florida Highway Patrol has confirmed the names of the seven victims — including five children, none older than 14 — who were killed Thursday in a fiery five-vehicle crash involving a church van on its way to Walt Disney World.
The five children aboard the van were identified as Joel Cloud, 14, Jeremiah Warren, 14, Cierra Bordelan, 9, Cara Descant, 13, and 10-year-old Brieana Descant.
Three adults and nine children were in the van in total, heading to Orlando from Marksville, Louisiana.
It’s unknown if they were wearing seat belts at the time of the collision, the highway patrol said in a news release.
The van’s driver, Amy Joffiron, 45, was seriously injured.
Two of the four other drivers in the crash were killed: Douglas Bolkema, 49, and Steve Holland, 59.
Bolkema, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was wearing a seat belt. But it’s unknown if Holland, who was from West Palm Beach, was restrained at the time of wreck.
Driver Robyn Rattray, 41, of Gainesville, Florida, was seriously injured. She was wearing a seat belt at the time of the crash.
Only the last driver, 61-year-old Mark Houghtaling, also of Gainesville, was physically spared. He was wearing a seat belt.
In addition to the seven slain victims, eight others were injured either critically or seriously, including two of the drivers.
The van was owned by Avoyelles House of Mercy in Marksville. On Friday afternoon, the United Pentecostal Church organization spoke out on behalf of the church.
In a Facebook post, they confirmed that Sister Karen Descant, the wife of the church’s pastor, Eric Descant, was among the injured, as was a pregnant woman.
While Descant was “pretty banged up,” the pregnant woman and her baby had been stabilized, the church said.
“The other lady is not as severely injured, but is still in the hospital,” they wrote on Facebook. “The four children all have injuries, but the medical staff feel that all of them will heal and recover.”
Writing on his own page, the pastor mourned the deaths of the five children.
“My Lord Jesus—Though we have lost these precious little babies—Heaven has just been beautified immensely with these little Jesus Name Babies,” he wrote. “We know Lord they were always Yours! Though it’s hard to fathom that they are back in the Loving Hands of their creator, we will always love them.”
The highway patrol described the crash as a chain-reaction set off by Holland’s semi-truck about 3:40 p.m. Thursday in Alachua County. That’s when, “for an unknown reason,” Holland crossed into the lane to his left, hitting Rattray’s Honda and sending them both through the center median where Holland’s truck then hit the church van, which flipped several times.
“An unknown number” of people in the van were ejected, the highway patrol said.
Finally, Holland’s truck hit Bolkema’s semi-truck. Both trucks as well as Rattray’s vehicle caught fire.
Houghtaling’s pickup hit at least one of the victims who were ejected from the church van.
The investigation into the crash continues. However, alcohol was not involved, according to the highway patrol.
On Friday, Jeremy Warren’s older sister spoke to PEOPLE of her heartbreak.
“It was his first time going to Disney,” she said. “He never got to go on vacation. He grew up in a single-parent home.”
Candice Lemoine, a friend of the family, told PEOPLE: “It’s just tragic when the kids saved their money to make this special trip and never made it there.”