Church gathers to mourn those killed and injured in van crash

Church van crashed early Friday morning


A special service was held Sunday morning at First Baptist Church in New Port Richey. "We said goodbye on earth to two of the finest that we know. But Lord you spared others and we thank you for their future," Pastor Guy Sanders prayed.


The service began with a prayer to help cope with such a horrible tragedy. Friday morning a group from the church was headed to a youth camp in Georgia.


Investigators say a tire blew out on the church's van causing it to crash on I-75 in Columbia County. "It is trauma. It's going to take some time," Pastor Sanders said.


Jeff Novak and Michalanne Salliotte were killed. Several other children on board were injured. The most serious, 14-year-old Jacob Newman.  He remains in intensive care at the University of Florida's Shands Hospital.  "He's got a long way to go because of broken bones and some internal injuries but the word this morning was good," Pastor Sanders said.


Both Novak and Salliotte volunteered as youth ministers. Novak took pride in ministering to young people. "His entire life was dedicated to kids," Novak's brother-in-law John Cavalier said. "He always just had affinity for the kids and he ultimately dies serving God doing what he always did."


Salliotte was always the first to volunteer for mission trips around the world.


During the service Pastor Sanders held up a piece of shattered glass from the van. The shattered pieces held together by a sticker barring the church's name; symbol of the healing process that's just begun. "We stick together. We are stuck together by the grace of God and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ," Pastor Sanders said to the congregation.


The Florida Highway Patrol say it will be another two to three months before a final report is released on the cause of the deadly accident.

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