Miami-Dade County

‘They were good kids.’ Emotional funeral for soccer players killed by drunk driver

Three young soccer players who bonded together on the field were remembered together in a combined funeral service Saturday morning.

The joint service and celebration of life for Gedeon Desir, 13, Lens Desir, 15, and Richecarde Dumay, 17, members of Little Haiti FC, a local youth soccer club, who were killed when they were hit by an accused drunk driver, was held at the 93rd Street Community Baptist Church in Miami.

As soft music played, family and friends filed into the church and were greeted by the sight of three white with gold trim open caskets surrounding the church’s pulpit.

Soccer balls, signed by the teens’ teammates, were placed in each of the caskets. The soccer players served as pallbearers.

‘Martyrs of Haitian community’

Hailed as “martyrs of the Haitian community” for bringing the community together — united in grief and inspired by the newcomers’ shared ambitions as students and athletes — Pastor Joanem Frandy Floreal delivered an emotional sermon. His powerful voice pierced the sound of wails and cries from several family members seated in the pews.

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Mourners pay their respect to the three Haitian teens killed by a motorist during the memorial service at 93rd Community Baptist Church on Saturday, June 22, 2019. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com

“Words will never be enough to alleviate your pain,” Floreal said in English and Creole. “Makes it even harder when it is so untimely, so unexpected.”

The young athletes from Haiti, and their families, had dreamed of a better future in the United States.

Gedeon Desir went to North Miami Middle School and was an alter boy at Notre Dame d’Haiti Catholic Church.. Lens Desir and Richcarde Dumay were students at Miami Edison High School.

They weren’t related by blood but by friendship and shared goals.

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Mourners pay their respect to the three Haitian teens killed by a motorist during the memorial service at 93rd Community Baptist Church on Saturday, June 22, 2019. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com

“They were good kids, they were hard-working kids, all of them, they were doing the right thing, on the right path,” Mallory Kauderer, board vice president of Little Haiti FC, told Miami Herald news partner CBS4 during Friday’s individual viewing services for Lens, Gedeon and Richecarde.

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Florence Dennis (right) and Antonio Dumay, father of Richecarde Dumay, mourn during the memorial service at 93rd Community Baptist Church on Saturday, June 22, 2019, for the teen and the two of his teammates killed by a motorist. Carl Juste cjuste@miamiherald.com

The morning tragedy

But that Saturday morning in May, a bit after 5 a.m. when most schoolkids are catching up on sleep, they were on their way to catch a bus for an ENIGMA soccer tournament in Weston on May 25.

The three buddies and teammates were hit and killed by Mariam Coulibaly, a 31-year-old stripper. Police say she was at the wheel of a sport utility vehicle in North Miami near the corner of Northeast 13th Avenue and 125th Street and that she was driving under the influence.

Coulibaly, 31, who had a long record of driving offenses, was charged with three counts of DUI manslaughter and three counts of vehicular homicide-driving in a reckless manner.

On Friday, Lens’ father anticipated Saturday’s combined funeral service through pain that is still raw. A hurt shared by the boys’ family, friends and teammates.

“It’ll be the last day tomorrow and I’m not going to see my boy again,” Penel Jean Desir told CBS4. “I can’t believe I lost my boy like that, he didn’t even say goodbye, he didn’t say goodbye.”

Funeral procession shuts 95

As the funeral procession made its way to Our Lady Queen of Heaven Catholic Cemetery in North Lauderdale for the burial of Lens and Richecarde (Gedeon will be buried in Haiti) it was escorted by a motorcycle unit from the North Miami Police Department.

Employing a tradition that is usually reserved for heads of government and officers who fell in the line of duty, North Miami PD had parts of Interstate 95 and Florida’s Turnpike temporarily shut down for the procession to the cemetery.

The only people who get this are the president, vice-president and police officers who have died in the line of duty, says Pat Santangelo, a retired Florida Highway Patrol reserve captain.

The funeral plots were donated by the Archdiocese of Miami.

Miami Herald photographer Carl Juste contributed to this report.
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Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
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