"When he arrived in a room, everyone knew he was there," Olivera said of Edson. "He was very social. He walked around the room laughing and hugging everyone."

Almeida described Leticia as a friendly, well-behaved girl who loved music.

"Leticia was amazing," she said. "She was a happy girl, a Christian girl."

Lidiane was the sole survivor in the church van. She remains hospitalized in Gainesville, but is recovering. The 15-year-old told family members she wants to stay in Georgia, and not return to Brazil, a country she left as a toddler and doesn't remember. Olivera said she will likely live with an aunt and an uncle near Atlanta and continue classes at the high school she loves.

Some church members and friends expressed concern this week that immigration authorities might pursue the girl because she's in the country illegally. But a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said this week that the girl is not at risk of deportation.


On the southbound side another pickup truck slammed into a semi that had stopped in the center lane. Vontavia Robinson, 22, from the nearby small town of Williston, died when he crashed a Pontiac Grand Prix into the back of that pickup. An aunt told The Gainesville Sun that Robinson was coming home after bowling with his brother. His obituary said he came from a large family and had two children of his own.


Over in the northbound lanes, 10 vehicles were involved. A week later The Florida Highway Patrol is still trying to piece together what happened.


Jason Lee Raikes, 26, and Christie Diana Nguyen (pronounced WEN), 27, were riding in a Toyota Matrix that crashed in the northbound lanes.

The couple had met playing World of Warcraft online and he had moved to Florida from Richmond, Va., about a year ago so they could be together. Nguyen grew up in Gainesville, the daughter of a physician and his wife who had emigrated from China.

Nguyen met her best friend Kaitlin Smith while they were dancing in the troupe at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville. Although Nguyen went on to graduate from the University of Florida, she had enrolled in some classes at the community college this semester so she could continue to dance there. She had a 7-year-old son named Drew from a previous marriage.

"Everybody remembers her as the girl who loved two things more than anything: her son and her dancing," said Alora Haynes, who chairs the fine arts department at Santa Fe. "She was always smiling. She was a very pleasant person, and so much fun."

Raikes, who worked for a computer company, had taken his new girlfriend back to Virginia to see his family for Thanksgiving and planned to propose marriage, Smith said. One of Raikes' friends from back home, Joshua Squires, told WWBT-TV in Richmond that everyone there was proud of him.

"He managed to get himself a great job, beautiful girlfriend, move to an exciting new city and he was living his dream," Squires said.

Smith said she thinks the couple was driving back home to Gainesville from Ocala, where Nguyen had done some modeling for a photographer on Saturday.

"They had so much love for each other," Smith said. "I was hesitant to meet (Raikes) because I'm so protective of Christie. After I met him, I knew I had nothing to worry about. He loved her so much, and unconditionally. They laughed all the time."


It took hours for the FHP and others to clear Interstate 75 and reopen it after the wreck. The investigation into the accidents - and whether the FHP should have opened the road - continues.