Families mourn loved ones lost in fiery crash

- John Bernal was 9 and he loved superheroes. He always wore an electric smile. His sister, 10-year-old Maria was a princess who always wore pink. They meant the world to their mom, Marianela Murillo, but all three were killed when state troopers say a speeding driver hit them so hard, his engine ended up across the road.

"It was tragic," says Mizrah Medina, a cousin. "They are beautiful souls. They didn't do anything wrong."

They were in the family's mini-van, driving home from church on SR 574 near Coconut Palm Drive Wednesday around 10 p.m. when they were hit nearly head-on.

Florida Highway Patrol troopers say 22-year-old Pablo Cortes was driving his Volkswagon Golf at high speed, lost control, crossed the median and slammed into the van. Cortes' passenger, 19 year-old Jolie Bartolome was also killed.

Family members say two older girls who were in the van are in critical, but stable condition.

Grief counselors were on-hand at Mango Elementary where John and Maria were in 4th and 5th grades. Family members say their father, John is too overcome with grief to speak.

"I'm very sad," says his cousin, Jose Cicedo, who was at Tampa General where the older girls are being treated. "My heart is broken," he said.

"They were hard working people. the nicest people you'll ever want to meet, says Gisela Martinez, a cousin. "The kids light up any room. Their teachers are going to miss them. Their friends are going to miss them. We definitely miss them already."

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