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'Horrific tragedy:' Two Belleville, Ont. girls killed in Florida crash


Two Belleville, Ont. girls have been killed in a crash that injured several other family members on a March Break vacation in Florida.

Lawyer Pieter Kort and his family were in a van that was struck by a cement truck, Kort's law partner Ed Kafka wrote on Facebook.

"Pieter Kort, my friend, partner and Brother in the trenches, has experienced a horrific tragedy with his entire Family in Jacksonville Florida yesterday at 6:00am," Ed Kafka said in a post on the Kafka, Kort Barristers Facebook page Sunday.

"The Family van was struck from behind by a cement truck which resulted in a nightmare that no Family should ever experience.

"Sadly their beloved Daughters Madeline (13) and Joni (10) were killed in the crash. Their sweet Daughter Hannah (16) and their lovely Mom Jamie are in critical condition in the ICU. Their handsome Son Ethan 15 is recovering from his injuries along with his Dad."

The Florida Highway Patrol said nine people were injured in the three-vehicle crash Saturday morning in Clay County. A sport utility vehicle, a van and a concrete pump truck were involved in the crash, which happened around 5 a.m.

Preliminary investigation shows the concrete pump truck collided with the rear of the van carrying the Kort family, pushing it into the rear of the SUV, Highway Patrol officials said.

A relative has set up a GoFundMe page to support the Kort family. As of Monday morning, more than $250,000 has been raised.

"Our family’s lives were changed forever on March 19 when the unimaginable happened. While on their way home from a family vacation in Florida, the Kort’s were in a horrific vehicle accident," organizer Lindsay Young wrote on the GoFundMe page.

"Many have asked what they can do to help. While we don’t know the specifics of this journey, we know the road ahead will be long and fraught with immeasurable grief. Your love, support, and prayers are appreciated during this time."

Belleville Mayor Mitch Panciuk told CTV News Ottawa the news came as a shock.

“Today is a day that’s not just a loss for them but also for all of us,” he said.

Panciuk knows the family and said on Monday that the Belleville courthouse cancelled all but urgent business in light of the news.

“And that, I think, speaks testimates to people's respect for him and his integrity as a lawyer. And he was very involved, coaching his children in rugby and hockey and in other sports and always being present.”

The local school board issued a statement on Sunday calling the news a "tremendous loss in our community."

"The Algonquin and Lakeshore Catholic District School Board is deeply saddened by the news of a tragic accident that involved the passing of two students and two other students who are critically injured," the board said. "This news is heart breaking and a tremendous loss in our community."

The Board's bereavement team will be at impacted schools to support students, staff and community members, the statement said.

"We ask everyone to please keep the family and the Nicholson Catholic College and St. Joseph Catholic School communities in your prayers."

--With files from CTV News Ottawa's Kimberley Johnson Top Stories

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