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Florida Crash Survivor Loses Family, Faces Deportation
Lidiane Carmo, 15, the sole survivor among her immediate family, came to the United States from Brazil when she was only 2, according to another pastor at International Church of the Restoration in Marietta. "She is like any regular American girl. (But) she wasn't born here," the Rev. Aron Amazonas said Wednesday. "She acts like an American girl. She almost can't speak the Portuguese language. She doesn't know the people there." Lidiane and five members of her family were part of a church delegation returning Sunday from a conference in Orlando, according to CNN affiliate WSB. Jose Carmo, pastor at the church; his wife, Adriana; and their daughter Leticia were killed, along with Jose Carmo's brother, Edsom Carmo, who was driving one of the church's vans, and a companion.
Lidiane, who remains hospitalized, learned Tuesday that her parents and sister had been killed, Amazonas told WSB. Church members are concerned that the teen may face legal troubles. "The Carmo family was in the United States illegally," said Alonso Oliveira, a family friend and pastor. "The family wanted to obtain legal status but had no laws to help them do so." The family stayed in the United States after their visas expired, WSB reported. Amazonas said the church's top priority is taking care of Lidiane and sending the bodies of the victims back to Brazil. "We are shocked with everything that happened with us and this lovely family. We are trying to give them the support they need," he said.
Representatives of the Brazilian government are consulting with the church about Lidiane's legal status. Amazonas was hopeful that the laws would permit the teen to stay in the United States. A local high school was holding a prayer vigil Wednesday night.
The pastor said the church has been promised financial assistance from Florida on the return of the remains. Members of the community also are assisting. The death toll from the string of crashes on Interstate 75 near Gainesville -- amid heavy smoke from a nearby brush fire -- has risen to 11 with the discovery of another body, the Florida Highway Patrol said. An additional victim was found in a Dodge truck, the Highway Patrol said in a statement Tuesday. The body was not immediately identified.
The National Weather Service warned that patchy smoke and fog may still be present in the area Wednesday. The smoke is from a brush fire at the nearby Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park. The Boardwalk Fire was 100% contained, but smoke could linger for months, Ludie Bond, wildfire mitigation specialist for the Gainesville area, said this week. Meanwhile, questions remain about the deadly crashes. The Florida Highway Patrol had reopened the section of I-75 where the crashes occurred barely half an hour before the pileup. The interstate was closed for about three hours earlier Sunday, after a pair of crashes late Saturday on I-75 and nearby U.S. 441, Highway Patrol Lt. Patrick Riordan said Monday. Troopers, the state Department of Transportation and the local sheriff's office reopened the road after determining that conditions were improving, he said. I-75 reopened at 3:26 a.m. Thirty-three minutes later, callers began to report chain-reaction crashes in both the north and southbound lanes.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott has asked the state Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the circumstances behind the crashes.
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