The Florida Highway Patrol said a preliminary investigation showed that a vehicle carrying 18 occupants and heading eastbound on State Road 78 passed through a stop sign after midnight ET.
Yahoo News adds:
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.
According to CNN, the van then careened across all lanes of traffic on US 27 near Moore Haven, struck an embankment ditch and ended up in a steep, partially water-filled canal, Lt. Greg Bueno said in a statement.
— WFLA NEWS (@WFLA) March 30, 2015
He said the driver and seven passengers were confirmed dead, while 10 other people were taken to four local hospitals. The conditions of two passengers were described as “trauma alerts,” while three were in serious condition, Bueno said. Three others — including a four-year-old child — were described as “stable” while the conditions of two other injured passengers were not immediately clear, he added.
“Its tragic,” Bueno later told reporters.
He said the van was traveling from Fort Myers back to the Fort Pierce area, where the church it was affiliated with is located. Bueno did not name the church — though the Dodge van had Independent Haitian Assembly of God across its side — and added that formal victim identifications are still pending.
The Glades County Sheriff’s office referred all calls to Florida Highway Patrol.
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.
Passengers were being treated at four hospitals.
Moore Haven is located in Glades County and is about 80 miles west of West Palm Beach.