Service held for 4 killed in DeLand crash

4 died in wreck, including 4-year-old Jacksonville girl


DeLAND, Fla. – A celebration of life service was held Monday for four people who were killed last week in a Volusia County crash.

A woman and three girls died Tuesday in the wreck, which occurred at Grand and New York avenues in DeLand.

Sandra Lopes was driving a Jeep with her two granddaughters, 2-year-old Aryana Thomas, and 4-year-old Jaydn Thomas, and her boyfriend's daughter, 4-year-old Aleah Bridges of Jacksonville, when another vehicle drove straight into their path.

The Jeep caught fire, and all four died at the scene, officials said.

The service, which was open to the public, was held at Life Point Community Church. The girls' father and grandfather spoke at the service.

"The last year of my granddaughters' lives the lived with us I was so upset with my son and Kami because they needed help and they were invading me and my grandmothers space," said grandfather Albert Shoemaker. "I thank them now for that year -- that gave me a year of every day of seeing those little girls."

"I gave her another love and kiss and I walked away and I turned back one more time and gave her a big kiss and smile and that's how I'm going to remember my baby, that's she's with Mimi," said Aleah's mother, Sarah Bridges. 

Officials are expected to install a traffic light at the intersection soon. The light is only temporary while crews construct a $1.6 million roundabout.

Meanwhile, community members in Volusia County continued to mourn.

Members of the Welch family said they stopped Sunday to pay their respects at the intersection Sunday, adding that many of their friends have been talking about the dangers present.

"It's just sad that it takes this, because now, you know, they can't get their children back," said Karen Welch.

"It's sad that it happened this way. It took this for them to finally put up lights and it really makes me mad," said Paul Welch. 

A previous traffic study showed 28 accidents at the intersection in the past three years.

Several people in the community have said they are happy to see changes being made, but said it's unfortunate several lives have already been lost.  

"Why did it take this? Why was it this long? Because these roads have been here for many many years, and now it is going to take this for people to wake up and say, 'OK, maybe now we might have the money,'" said Karen Welch. 

"There been a lot of talk about what needs to be done and changes that need to be made and that's just something they need to do, seriously, because this is awful what happened," said Brandon Welch.

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