A return trip from shopping for school supplies turned tragic when three people died and one was seriously injured after the Lexus sport utility vehicle in which they were traveling careened off Interstate 95, crashed through a chain-link fence and plunged into a lake late Wednesday in Deerfield Beach.
The group, including a mother and daughter, was on the way home from the Town Center at Boca Raton mall, said family members of the only survivor, Sandalie Jean-Baptiste, 20, who was listed in poor condition Thursday evening at Broward Health North hospital.
Broward Sheriff’s Office firefighters and divers pulled Jean-Baptiste from the submerged Lexus after receiving a call for help shortly after 10 p.m. Wednesday, BSO said. They also found Nadege Theodore, 37, and Guivens Daverman, 16, in the canal.
All three were in cardiac arrest, and rescuers transported them to Broward Health North in critical condition, said Mike Jachles, a BSO spokesman.
Doctors pronounced Theodore and Daverman dead at the hospital.
But rescuers were unaware of a fourth victim — 15-year-old Lynn Theodore, who divers found Thursday morning — until after police notified family members of the accident. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
All four of the people traveling in the Lexus were related, according to family members and friends.
Lynn Theodore was Nadege Theodore’s daughter, family members said Thursday night.
Daverman was Theodore’s nephew, and Jean-Baptiste is her stepsister, said Duly Charles, who is the father of Theodore’s 8-year-old son Deemily Charles. Deemily was not in the car with his mother and sister.
Charles struggled with grief as he spoke Thursday. He said he did not know how to break the news to his son, who already suspects something terrible has happened.
“He sees everyone crying,” Charles said. “I’m sure he knows. Me, I tell him his mother is sleeping.”
He described Theodore as a devoted mother, and a deeply religious member of the Baptist faith.
“Nadege is the type of person that you knew the kids were in good hands,” he said. “She loved to dress up the kids to go to church. She always put the kids before herself.”
The two met in their hometown of Okap, Haiti. Theodore immigrated to the United States in 1994, Charles said.
After reuniting in Broward County, they had a child together — Deemily. But he always treated Lynn as his own daughter, Charles said.
“She called me daddy,” he said. “I told people she was my child.”
He said Daverman, Jean-Baptiste and Lynn Theodore were at the Town Center shopping for school supplies, and that Nadege Theodore stopped after work to pick them up.
Theodore worked as a certified nursing assistant, Charles said, and she was enrolled at ITT Technical Institute.
“She was one step away from becoming an RN [registered nurse],” he said. “That was her dream.”
Lynn wanted to follow in the footsteps of her mother. A sophomore at Blanche Ely High School’s magnet program, Lynn Theodore was a straight-A student and wanted to be a nurse, said her aunt, Edmonde Emmanuel.
Guivens Daverman was also a sophomore at Blanche Ely, where he played football and was on the track team, Emmanuel said. A jokester who loved to dance, he was seldom without a smile on his face.
The family is tight-knit, said Emmanuel, who is the sister of Nadege Theodore and Myrlande Theodore, Guivens’ mother. They all spent New Year’s Day together, going to church and drinking pumpkin soup, a Haitian tradition.
“My sister is a complete wreck,’’ Emmanuel said of Myrlande Theodore. “She lost her sister, her son, her niece all in the same day. And we don’t know about our step-sister.’’
At Broward Health North, friends from Jean-Baptiste’s church and family members came to pray Thursday afternoon.
One man who identified himself as Jean-Baptiste’s father — but declined to give his name — appeared despondent as he spoke of his daughter.
“She is a very smart girl,” he said with tears in his eyes. “But she is in critical condition. She is really bad.”
Max Jean, a family friend visiting the hospital Thursday, described the woman’s condition as grave.
“It’s a 10 percent chance that she might survive because her brain has already shut down,” Jean said. “She is in a coma.”
Jean-Baptiste immigrated to the United States from Haiti in 2006, and she graduated from high school at age 17, her father said. She dreamed of being an anesthesiologist.
Meanwhile, BSO and Florida Highway Patrol continued investigating the accident that caused Theodore’s vehicle to tumble off the highway.
At 10:12 p.m. Wednesday, two calls came in reporting a traffic collision. But the callers gave different locations — with one stating that the collision occurred at the Hillsboro Boulevard exit, and a second putting the scene at the Southwest 10th Street exit.
Police said it took officers about four minutes to locate the scene of the accident, and another 10 minutes for divers to get in the water.
An FHP report said the 2000 Lexus RX 300 careened off the highway just south of the Hillsboro Boulevard exit in Deerfield Beach after colliding with two other vehicles — a 2012 Hyundai Sonata and a 2003 Nissan Altima.
No one else was injured in the collision, and FHP has yet to charge any of the drivers, identified as Marcelo Mario Costa, 38, of Fort Lauderdale, and Romial Romeus, 37, of Lauderdale Lakes.
Costa could not be reached Thursday. Romeus said he struggled to steer his car to a stop after being struck by another vehicle, and that he did not know a third car had plunged into the lake until after he overheard police talking about it.
Sgt. Mark Wysocky of the FHP said it is too early to tell if excessive speed or alcohol were factors in the collision. It is also unknown if the driver and passengers in the Lexus were wearing seat belts.
Theodore is believed to have been driving the Lexus.
Emmanuel last talked with her sister about a half hour before the accident. She also talked with her nephew, who was nicknamed “Pappy’’ by his family. Guivens told his aunt he’d been looking for a job at the mall that night, but hadn’t found anything.
The last thing Guivens said to his aunt, she said, before hanging up: “I love you.’’
Miami Herald staff writer Nadege Green and Miami Herald researcher Monika Z. Leal contributed to this report.