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Minister part of tragic church trip discusses victims killed in van accident near Lake City

8:36 PM, Feb 24, 2014   |    comments
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Video: Minister part of tragic church trip discusses victims

Jeff Novak was killed when a church van he was driving blew a tire and flipped. One other adult passenger was killed, six teen passengers suffered minor injuries and 1 was listed in critical condition the night the accident occurred.



New Port Richey, Florida - For the first time, a youth minister who was part of a caravan headed to a youth retreat speaks about the horrific van accident that left two of their church members dead.

The church van blew its tire and flipped on Interstate 75 on Friday killing the driver and a passenger. Another adult, and seven children, were also in the van.

STORY: Crash near lake city kills 2, injures 8, including children

The van was from the First Baptist Church of New Port Richey.
They were headed to a church camp in Covington, GA, when they crashed near Lake City. Brad Smith is the Minister of Students at the New Port Richey church and was on a chartered bus ahead of the van.

He says the bus was full because so many teens wanted to go. 

"It's one of our favorite things that we do all year," he told 10 News. 

Reverend Smith says there were 63 people in all, including chaperons and teenagers. He says they were all excited about all the activities planned with one goal in mind. 

"...just have time when we are just focusing on our relationship with Jesus," Smith explained. 

Florida Highway Patrol says the tread on the left back tire of the van that 52-year-old Jeff Novak was driving separated. Novak lost control and the van flipped several times, killing the married father of four who works as an engineer for the Pasco County Transportation Department. 

SEE ALSO: Vigil held for two killed in church van crash  

Smith described his relationship with Novak, "More than being a youth leader, he was my friend. In the last seven years, I can't think of a trip we took that Jeff didn't drive. He loved to drive." 

Michalanne Salliotte was also a youth leader and a married mother of four, a housewife, who was a passenger in the van. She died in the crash as well. 

"Michalanne was just so kind and loving and sweet," said Smith.

Seven others were on that van and survived including another adult, but according to Smith, "Everyone physically has some stitches - bumps bruises - little cuts here and there."

One teen, Jacob Newman, remains in critical condition at the hospital in ICU.

You can donate to the victims' families at any area Republic Bank. Just make your check payable to First Baptist of New Port Richey with the victim's name in the memo box.

You can also send checks directly to First Baptist of New Port Richey at 6800 Trouble Creek Road in New Port Richey, Florida 34653.

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