BOCA RATON, Fla. – A church bus filled with teens was hit by an SUV (search) and ran off a highway, plunging into a canal and killing three people, police said Sunday.
The bus, carrying about 25 people from First Baptist Church at Hillsboro (search) in Coconut Creek, was submerged in about 16 feet of water, Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Roger Reyes said.
Police initially believed a fourth child was missing, but no one was found by divers or when the bus was pulled from the canal early Sunday, leading officials to believe that child was not on the bus, said FHP Lt. Pat Santangelo. However, officials were trying to develop an accurate roster of passengers.
Reyes said the bus was returning from an Orlando-area theme park late Saturday when the accident happened just a few miles from its destination along a section of Florida's Turnpike that has no side guardrails.
A Ford Explorer had a blowout and hit the bus, running it off the road and into the canal at about 10 p.m., Reyes said.
"I was asleep," 13-year-old Christopher Thomas told The Palm Beach Post. "I heard a bump, we swerved, water came rushing in the window and I swam out."
A Broward County Sheriff's office deputy and passers-by jumped into the canal to pull people out immediately after the accident, Reyes said.
"There were 10 kids standing on the roof [of the bus] saying: 'Help us, help us,'" Laura Doan of Davie, one of the first people at the scene, told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Sylvia Williamson, wife of the Rev. Jerry Williamson (search), the church pastor, told the Sun-Sentinel most of the teens on the bus were from the church youth group, in grades 7 to 12.
Authorities identified the three victims as Andrew Cook, Brandon Miller and Daniel Lynn. They ranged in age from 12 to 14, but their exact ages and hometowns were not immediately available.
The injured were taken to three hospitals.