Skip to comments.ALLIGATOR ALLEY DEATHS - [relatives mourn 4 found in canal]
Posted on 02/27/2005 6:54:05 AM PST by nuconvert
ALLIGATOR ALLEY DEATHS
Feb. 27, 2005
`But they are with God now' Relatives in Fort Myers are grieving for four people who were found dead in a Broward County canal more than a week after family members reported them missing.
BY EVAN S. BENN AND KEVIN DEUTSCH
For 10 agonizing days, Gerline Sainval waited for police to call her Fort Myers home with good news about her aunt, uncle, cousin and a friend who had disappeared on their way to Lee County from Miami International Airport on Feb. 15.
Instead, the call she received Friday night was devastating: Police found her aunt's 1986 blue Honda Accord submerged in a canal off Alligator Alley in western Broward County, and four bodies were inside.
While the Broward County Medical Examiner's Office and investigators worked to positively identify the bodies, Sainval said Saturday that she knows it was her loved ones who died when the car apparently skidded off Interstate 75 near Mile Marker 26, one mile west of the toll booth.
''They were good people, and sometimes it's hard to understand why things like this happen to good people,'' Sainval, 32, said. ``But they are with God now. Someday we'll be together again.''
Sainval said her aunt, Berline Sainval, 29, and a friend, Jean Raoul Lahems, 44, drove from Fort Myers to Miami International Airport on Feb. 15. There, they picked up Berline Sainval's husband, Masner Menager, and one of Gerline Sainval's cousins, Marie Yolette Petion, 52, both of whom had flown in from Haiti.
Menager, a pastor of a church in Haiti, traveled frequently to Fort Myers to visit his wife, Gerline Sainval said. And Petion had gone to Haiti to help her elderly mother move into her home there.
The four met at Miami International Airport and called a relative about 5:30 p.m. on their way to Fort Myers, but they never arrived.
THE BROKEN FENCE
The Honda smashed through a chain-link fence before plunging into the canal. There is no guard rail along that stretch of highway.
Sainval said she called police in Fort Myers on Feb. 16 when she learned that no one had heard from the group since the day before. Investigators treated her dismissively when she filed a missing-persons report, she said.
'They told me, `Oh, they probably decided to go back to Haiti,' or 'Oh, maybe they went to Disney World,' '' Sainval said. ``They didn't believe me.''
Sainval told investigators they should search Alligator Alley for the missing car. Police replied they would have known if a car went into a canal because of sensors in the fences that run parallel to the highway, she said.
Those fence-sensors are only in the Collier County stretch of I-75, not in Broward County, where the accident happened, according to FHP Lt. Roger Reyes.
Fort Myers police spokeswoman Shelly Flynn said her agency took the missing-persons report seriously.
''All I know is that we took a report when she contacted us,'' said Flynn. ``We acted immediately. We never take anything like this lightly.''
After the report was filed, Fort Myers police subpoenaed cellphone records of the missing foursome, interviewed people who had last seen them and followed up on tips, Flynn said.
The missing-persons report was distributed to police in Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier, Palm Beach and Lee counties, including the highway patrol.
''I'm confident that, with the assistance of several law enforcement agencies, we did everything we could to find these family members,'' Flynn said.
THE TRAGIC DISCOVERY
About 4 p.m. Friday, officers in a Miami-Dade County police helicopter spotted evidence of the car, and near that an oil slick, Miami-Dade police spokesman Robert Williams said.
Investigators had difficulty identifying the victims because of the ''prolonged period of time'' they were under water, according to an FHP news release.
On Saturday, friends and family in Fort Myers gathered to mourn the victims. Co-workers and patients from the nursing home where Berline Sainval worked stopped by her niece's house to offer their condolences, Gerline Sainval said.
''My aunt was so friendly. She was always laughing,'' Sainval said, before remembering her aunt's love of shopping.
``She was always shopping. The last time I talked to her, she told me she bought me two new bedspreads.''
Menager and Berline Sainval had been married about two years. Menager was passionate about his faith and his work in Haiti, and he often came to spend time with his wife in Florida, Gerline Sainval said. He was one of two pastors at a church in Carrefour, a swelling suburb west of Port-au-Prince, she added.
Petion came to the United States from Haiti in 1979 and spent much of her time here working as a beautician.
''She was very talented at what she did,'' Sainval said of her cousin. ``Right now, if you see my hair, it's a mess. I was waiting for her to do my hair.''
Collier County has sensors but Broward County does not have sensors on the chainlink fence in their County?
I hope Jeb Bush sees this article and does something about that situation.
Seems to me like another example of our spending money to protect and defend other Countries but failing to protect and defend our own.
AND if they can put sensors on THAT chain link fence, why can they not put sensors on the 'fence' between the USofA and Mexico?
"AND if they can put sensors on THAT chain link fence, why can they not put sensors on the 'fence' between the USofA and Mexico? "
Obviously, they CAN. But don't hold your breath.
And what would all this have solved?? Nothing. They were dead within minutes. No Emergency Crew could have saved them. Is it worth millions of dollars to set up a system just for finding bodies? We could just make everyone drive 10 miles an hour down alligator alley with their own private police escort. That would do it. No one would ever get hurt or die on that road. Nothing in life is 100% safe.
Question: What would Ted Kennedy say after his car ran off a road into the water?
I don't think it too tin-foily to say there are people who would get their jollies forcing others off the road.
Not much of an escape route if caught in the act.
I have driven this extremely flat straight section of highway many times between the airports and Fort Myers. The speed limit is seventy. I have been doing eighty and had cars passing me like I was setting still.
Doing 80 in a 70 is SOP for S. Florida roads. Yet speed isn't the only problem with Alligator Alley.
I can't begin to tell you how many drivers I've witnessed almost lose control, or lose control of their vehicles from not paying attention to the road but because they trying to spot the alligators that live in the canals.
They really need to take the fences down and let the wild life roam the highway. This would add to the adventure of driving Alligator Alley and make your feel like you're getting your money's worth of the tolls. This would be especially exciting when there are fires in the Everglades and the smoke obscures the roadway.
Flat tires would be much more interesting if you knew that you had to watch your back to make sure a big gator didn't sneak up on you.
This would be better than Disney or Busch Gardens.
And for the poofters that don't agree, let them take the safer northern routes.
ROFL! The possibilities are endless...
There was a problem with the Florida Cougar being killed on the highway and I believe they put culverts under the road for the animals to cross to the other side. Only problem, I don't think they taught them to read signs.
Not to mention that many of the cars you see doing over a hundred miles an hour are not in good shape and their tires if ever rated for that speed are now bald. I have slightly exceeded the speed limit through there in my Corvette with new "W" rated tires.
I never play "count the alligators" unless someone else is driving. Honest.
Sounds to me, at first glance, like a symbolism before substance type thing.
But maybe I'm wrong?
I wonder how much age of the drivers in that stretch plays a role. In my few times driving Alligator Alley, I recall quite a few nice, elderly residents making the drive. It's not hard to see how some could doze off in that hot, boring stretch of road.
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