Memorial grows at site of deadly crash in DeLand
DELAND, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - Flowers and plush toys began popping up at the site of a fatal crash, which claimed the lives of a woman and three little children.
There are lots of very visible reminders of what happened on Tuesday at State Road 44 and Grand Avenue in DeLand -- broken pieces of vehicles and scorched earth from a fire. Now, a small memorial has been growing as people came by to pay their respects."
"Emotional," is how Krishna Roberts described it. "I can't imagine what the family's going through. It must be very hard. I lost my son in '07 -- he was hit at 44 and 415. He was 7. So I know the family's loss of losing a loved one. It's just terrible."
Paul Poitrow saw the tragedy on the news and said he felt like he had to come to the site to do something to let the family know he and others are thinking about them. "I know how it feels to lose kids, and ... it's heartbreaking to you. These kids didn't even get to make a full life."
According to the FHP, Sandy Lopes was driving eastbound on SR 44 in a Jeep Wrangler when the vehicle collided with a Ford Explorer that had crossed into its path. The Wrangler rolled and became engulfed in flames. Lopes and her three grandchildren — Aryana Thomas, 2, Jadyn Thomas, 4, and Aliyia, 5 — all died in the crash.
A Go Fund Me account has been established to help cover burial expenses. Click here to read more.
The horrific crash has the Volusia County Sheriff and the family of the victims more determined than ever to get a light or some other fix at the intersection. The reason there is no traffic signal, roundabout, or other traffic improvements for safety, according to Sheriff Ben Johnson, is because of budget constraints.
"The county has been pushing for a roundabout, but there are no funds for it. We have to push. We can't allow the possibility of something like this to happen again," Johnson said.
"We have been trying to get police to push for a light. Tried to get the city to push for a light, and they just kept putting it off, putting it off. It needs to be done," said Donna Lopes.
Johnson said the county has considered it to be a dangerous intersection for some time. County statistics show since 2011, there have been 33 vehicle accidents. Of those, 14 occurred just last year. According to FHP spokesperson Sgt. Kim Montes, state statistics show there has only been one other fatal crash since 2004 and that was in 2013.
But for the family of the victims, the numbers don't tell their story. Jeff Thomas is the father of Aryana and Jadyn. "They should have put a signal up there years ago. My girls would still be here. I just want to thank everyone for their support," he said, fighting back tears.
Sheriff Johnson vows to push for funding for a roundabout at Thursday's commission meeting.
FOX 35's Tracy Jacim contributed to this report.