Community remembers father and daughter killed in Venice crash

Eugene Hayden and his daughter, Carol Hayden.

VENICE, Fla. (WFLA) — Those who knew a father and daughter who died in a violent crash at the South Jetty in Venice spoke out Wednesday, calling the family members “outgoing” and gregarious people.

Police identified the victims on Tuesday as Eugene Hayden, 88, and his daughter, Carol Hayden, 64.

Officials tell News Channel 8 that Carol was driving a mini-van Monday evening when it flew off the road and landed in the waterway.

“We celebrate lives here,” said Joel Anderson, CEO of The Village on the Isle where the Haydens lived.  “It’s in a different fashion for us today because it’s a tragic loss. Sudden loss. Something that’s so unexpected for us.”

Anderson said Carol was known as a friendly woman who spent lots of time with friends. Eugene, who went by Gene, enjoyed photography and was the unofficial news reporter at the retirement community.

Both were from Nokomis in Sarasota County and moved to the community around a decade ago, Anderson said.

Several people jumped into the water Monday to try to help the Haydens as their car sank in the waterway.

Tim Cobb was on a boat nearby when he heard the crash.

“When I swam up to the windows to begin with, the gentleman in the passenger seat was trying to unlock the doors, and just with all the water pressure, it was just impossible to open the doors,” Cobb said.

He could see the two faces inside as he struggled to set them free.

“They were frozen with fear, but they were definitely trying to get out. They certainly did everything they could to try and get out,” Cobb recalled.

The pair often attended services at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Venice. The entire congregation was shocked by the news.

“It’s a terrible tragedy and you have all kinds of questions and are there answers to them?  No,” said Pastor Keith Backhaus.

A vigil is scheduled for Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at the Village on the Isle.

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