LEESBURG, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - It was an emotional prayer service Thursday night, so emotional, that the father of the four girls killed in a deadly Memorial Day crash walked out in tears. Other family members were visibly shaken during the vigil that attracted nearly 200.
According to family, the mother of the girls, Latorya Brown, and her boyfriend had taken Brown's five daughters and three other kids to the beach when a tire on their SUV blew and they flipped several times.
We spoke with that father, Emmanuel Cruz, after the service. We asked him where he was when he learned of the deadly car accident. "I was somewhere,I got the call, and my heart just stopped."
He was composed at this point, as composed as anyone could be. But less than an hour earlier inside the Mary Banks Global Training Center and Bible Teachers International in Carver Heights in Leesburg, he appeared devastated. The deaths of 15-year-old Amunya Cruz, 13-year-old Niashia Cruz, 10-year-old Nadia Cruz, and Jasmine Cruz were just too much to handle.
He says of his only daughter that survived the crash, " She's holding up strong. She's my survivor."
The sermons were moving, and the songs even more so. Nearly ten different people had to leave at some point, overcome by grief. Brown sat up front, and her wails audible in the back. Dozens of children filled the seats too as this tragedy has affected the entire community.
Pastor Primes McGirt said, "I feel that everybody sees how life is, that you can lose it in such a short time."
A balloon release was held outside the church as a symbol of hope -- something beautiful, and symbolic perhaps, of the four beautiful sisters who many believe are now somewhere better. Cruz says, "It means a lot, and I appreciate everybody. I really do. This is the only thing holding me together right now."
Pastor McGirt says a wake will ever held at the same church on Saturday. Donations can be made at any Wells Fargo in the country to the Cruz girls memorial fund.