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8 remain hospitalized after fatal Florida pileup

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 5:45 PM EST, Thu February 2, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • 15-year-old Lidiane Carmo remains hospitalized, along with 7 others injured in the pileup
  • Gov. Rick Scott's spokeswoman says he "is making every effort to assist"
  • "The anxiety of waiting is difficult," the teen's relatives in Brazil write

(CNN) -- Eight people remained hospitalized Thursday after a string of fatal car crashes on a Florida interstate over the weekend.

Lidiane Carmo, a 15-year-old who lost most of her family in the I-75 pileup, was among them. She was listed in fair condition at Shands at the University of Florida, hospital spokesman John Pastor said.

At least 11 people were killed in the crashes, which occurred outside Gainesville, Florida, early Sunday morning as dense fog and smoke from a brush fire enveloped the highway. Four of Carmo's family members were among them.

The teen's case drew widespread attention after church members said she was an illegal immigrant from Brazil, and they were afraid she could face deportation. But federal officials said Wednesday that she would be allowed to stay in the country.

"Reports of her facing deportation are completely false," ICE spokeswoman Barbara Gonzalez said. "ICE's stated priorities include convicted criminals, immigration fugitives, repeat immigration law violators and recent border crossers."

A letter to family friend Alonso Oliveira from Carmo's family members in Brazil said they were eager for information about her condition.

"We are sad," the letter said. "The anxiety of waiting is difficult."

Florida Gov. Rick Scott is hoping to help the teen, a spokeswoman for his office said.

The governor's office has been in regular contact with a pastor at the 15-year-old girl's church, spokeswoman Amy Graham said.

"Gov. Scott is very moved by this horrible tragedy and is making every effort to assist as quickly as possible," she said.

Lidiane came to the United States from Brazil when she was only 2, according to a pastor at International Church of the Restoration in Marietta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.

"She is like any regular American girl. (But) she wasn't born here," the Rev. Aron Amazonas said Wednesday. "She acts like an American girl. She almost can't speak the Portuguese language. She doesn't know the people there."

Jose Carmo, another pastor at the church; his wife, Adriana; and their daughter Leticia were killed, along with Jose Carmo's brother, Edsom Carmo, who was driving one of the church's vans, and a companion.

The family stayed in the United States after their visas expired, CNN affiliate WSB reported.

"The Carmo family was in the United States illegally," Oliveira said. "The family wanted to obtain legal status but had no laws to help them do so."

Amazonas said the church's top priority is taking care of Lidiane and sending the bodies of the victims back to Brazil.

On Sunday, according to the Carmo family, Gov. Scott visited the girl in the hospital and assured the family that Florida would take case of expenses, including the transportation of the bodies back to Georgia. The girl has no medical insurance.

On Wednesday, a source close to the family told CNN the family had been contacted by the governor's office.

Earlier, when CNN asked Graham to confirm that the governor promised to take care of financial costs, she declined, saying that the conversations with the accident victims during Scott's visit to the hospital Sunday were personal and that she did not have any details about them.

Scott had been set to appear on CNN on Wednesday to discuss the previous night's primary election, but his office canceled the interview when told that CNN also would ask about his offer of help to the family. Scott's office said it canceled because the network changed "the terms of the interview just hours" beforehand.

Scott has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the circumstances behind the crashes.

CNN's John Couwels, Martin Savidge, AnneClaire Stapleton and Melanie Whitley contributed to this report.

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