DESOTO COUNTY, FL (WFLA) — A head-on crash that killed five people Sunday on State Road 70 in DeSoto County has devastated the Prayer Tower Church of God in Christ Church in St. Petersburg. Three of the fatalities were sisters and all of them the daughters of Prayer Tower Pastor Ricardo Welch.
“They were returning from a church convention and just talking about how incredible it was to be a Christian,” said Pinellas Commissioner Ken Welch who was a cousin to the Welch sisters. “That’s what we’ll remember about these there young ladies. They were incredible.”
The oldest Welch sister Lamour Welch, 29, was a nurse and mother of three young children.
“Her spirit was very sweet, very kind,” her uncle Clarence Skinner said. India Welch, 24, was known for her singing ability and passion for gospel music.
”Everybody in this county would call on her to do something from the school system to hospice the church,” Skinner said.
The youngest sister was Tehira Welch, 18, who was about to start her senior year at Gibbs High School. All three Welch sisters were attending a state convention with other members of their family and church in Ft. Pierce last weekend and were returning home when tragedy struck.
Antwayne Robinson, 25 of Garner, North Carolina—a gospel music friend of India– was driving the Volkswagon Passat the sisters were riding in when the driver of a Ford F-150 pickup truck started hydroplaning, lost control and crossed into the path of Robinson’s vehicle around 7 p.m. Sunday evening.
The truck’s driver, Jennifer Zuniga, 30, also died in the crash but 6-year-old Cort Thivierge who was riding in the truck survived with critical injuries and was taken to Tampa General Hospital.
The sisters’ father Pastor Ricardo Welch, held a prayer service at his church Monday morning as friends and family and other congregation members gathered for consolation.
“Ricardo’s incredibly strong,” Ken Welch said. “We’re all human and we all hurt but he is grounded in his faith as our family is and we are thankful for the teachings that have come down from his father who was a pastor as well.”
The Welch family has not yet determined funeral plans but Ken Welch tells 8 On Your Side a community prayer service is in the works.
“We just want to thank the community for their outpouring of support and we remember these incredibly young ladies India, Lamour and Tehira who have gone to be with the Lord,” Welch said.
Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch is second cousin to the St. Pete women who died in the crash.