|A teenage girl who lost her entire family in a multivehicle pile-up in Florida will not be deported after it emerged she is an undocumented immigrant, officials said today.|
Fifteen-year-old Lidiane Carmo lost her mother, father, sister and uncle in a crash caused by smoke from a brush fire that produced blackout conditions on I-75 near Gainesville on Sunday.
Family claimed Miss Carmo came to the U.S. from Brazil on a tourist visa twelve years ago and never left, but U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency said the high school freshman will not be forced to return to the country.
Tragic: The Carmo family shows wife Adriana, Leticia, 17, pastor Jose Jr. and Lidiane, 15. Only Lidiane survived a deadly crash
As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, the family was driving back home to Georgia from a religious conference in Florida when the accident happened along northbound lanes of the interstate.
The five passengers in the car with Lidiane, her parents, Jose and Adriana Carmo, their elder daughter, Leticia, her uncle and his girlfriend, were among the 11 people killed in the pile-up after the Florida Highway Patrol had reopened the interstate after an earlier serious accident.
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Mr Amazonas, senior pastor at the Igreja Internacional de Restaurcao, or International Church of the Restoration in Marietta, Georgia, outside Atlanta - where the young girl's father was a pastor - said parishioners feared she might be forced to return to Brazil after officials discovered she was in the U.S. illegally.
But immigration officials say she will not have to worry about that.
ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said in a statement reports about the young girl facing deportation are 'completely false'.
Survived: Pastor Arao Amazonas stayed in Florida Saturday night and lived. He was not involved in the massive pile-up
'Our thoughts and prayers are with Miss Lidiane Carmo as she deals with the tragic loss of her family,' Ms Gonzalez said.
'ICE's stated priorities include convicted criminals, immigration fugitives, repeat immigration law violators and recent border crossers.'
Miss Carmo, however, now faces the prospect of a long hospital recovery without health insurance. She has already undergone surgery for injuries sustained in the crash and could face further, the newspaper reports.
News of Miss Carmo's immigration status comes after officials today discovered an eleventh body in the wreckage that injured at least 16 others.
A sergeant and lieutenant determined after about three hours that conditions had cleared enough for drivers, but visibility quickly became murky again, officials said Monday. Florida Governor Rick Scott has ordered an investigation into that decision.
'We went through the area. We made an assessment. We came to the conclusion that the road was safe to travel and that is when we opened the road up,' Highway Patrol spokesman Lt Patrick Riordan said in a news conference.
Precarious: Lidiane, far left, is in a precious position now that she is orphaned, critically injured and, reportedly, in the country illegally
'Drivers have to recognize that the environment changes. They have to be prepared to make good judgments.'
At least a dozen cars, six tractor-trailers and a motorhome collided about 3.45am Sunday. Some cars were crushed under the bellies of big rigs. Others burst into flames and sent metal shrapnel flying through the air, horrifying witnesses watching the violence along Interstate 75 in calls to 911. Eighteen survivors were hospitalized.
In a 911 recording released Monday, a driver and her passengers told a dispatcher the fog and smoke from the 62-acre brush fire was so thick they couldn't see.
'I think there was another accident behind us because I heard it,' a woman said.
'Oh my gosh, it's so dark here.'
Mourning: The tiny International Church of the Restoration was rocked by the deaths
In the same 911 call, another woman took the phone and screamed an expletive as she hears another crash.
'That was a truck. We cannot see. It's like impossible to see,' the caller said.
'The smoke is very thick you can see obviously only your hand in front. I do hear an ambulance or police officer coming down the road.'
The church, which offers sermons in Portuguese, caters to the Brazilian community of Atlanta
Jason Lee Raikes, 26, of Richmond, Virginia, died in the crash, authorities said. They also said five out of six people riding in a 2012 Dodge Caravan died in the accident.
Highway Patrol has declined to release the names of the two troopers who made the decision to reopen the highway or provide details on how long they had been with the agency.
A spokesman said no troopers have been disciplined but the investigation into the crash continues. National Transportation Safety Board officials said Monday they are sending investigators to the scene.
The Florida Forest Service said Monday it still had not determined if the brush fire was intentionally set or accidental, although lightning has been ruled out. Spokeswoman Ludie Bond said the fire is contained but was still burning. Firefighters are spraying water around its perimeter attempting to reduce the smoke.
Criminal defense attorneys said that if the fire was caused by arson, authorities likely will file charges of manslaughter and possibly felony murder, which is defined as a death that happens as result of participating in a felony.
'You can bet they will be,' said Brian Tannebaum, a former president of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
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