KENANSVILLE, Fla. (AP) – An overcrowded van had a tire problem on the Florida Turnpike and rolled several times, killing a passenger and injuring 19 other people in a church group, state Highway Patrol officials said.
The group was headed from Miami to Orlando and crashed about 7:10 p.m. Saturday in Kenansville, 60 miles southeast of Orlando, Florida Highway Patrol spokeswoman Kim Montes said.
The rubber from at least one tire separated from the wheel, causing the van to roll over toward a center median, Montes said.
Merlande Chery, 46, of North Miami, was ejected from the van and pronounced dead at the scene. Several children were hurt, Montes said. Three people had to be airlifted to nearby hospitals, but none of the injuries were considered life threatening, authorities said Sunday.
The van belongs to GSC Community Inc., a Miami church group. Investigators said the vehicle was designed to hold 15 people and was also carrying a lot of luggage.
Montes said troopers were trying to determine how many people were wearing seatbelts. She described it as “very fortunate” that only one person was ejected considering the large number of people inside.
“We’re still determining how many times the vehicle rolled,” she said.
There was no answer at a phone listing for GSC Community Inc. on Sunday and a phone call by The Associated Press was not immediately returned.
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