Thank you for supporting our journalism. This article is available exclusively for our subscribers, who help fund our work at the Sun Sentinel.
Another long day at the farm packaging house was coming to an end, but before Mirlaine Innocent Julceus could slip into her bed with her 9-year-old daughter, just like she always did, she’d have to crisscross expanses of central and western Palm Beach County, dropping off some fellow Haitian workers. All told, six people would pack the SUV heading to their homes, the reverse trip of the one taken some 12 hours earlier when Innocent Julceus drove the group to work at the farm.
This life — driver, worker, mother — had become routine for the 44-year-old West Palm Beach woman who came from Haiti in search of a chance to have a better life some 10 years earlier.
Aside from the teen whose injuries were minor, Innocent Julceus was the only other person that possibly stood a chance at surviving. Sometime after the 11 p.m. crash, she was raced off to Delray Medical Center, but her injuries were too much to overcome.
“Six people died. All were providers, responsible for their families. Now they are gone,” said Jean Claude, a cousin of Innocent Julceus’ husband.
Also killed were Remize Michel, 52, of Palm Springs; Marie M. Louis, of Wellington; Filaine Dieu, 45, of Lake Worth Beach; and Vanice Percina, 28, of West Palm Beach. The name of the sixth person in the Nissan has not been released, pending notification of next of kin.
Right after the crash, fellow co-workers — and distant relatives to many in the SUV — were also leaving the Pero Family Farms packing house at shift change, frantically pecked at their phones calling relatives to tell them about the accident.
Innocent Julceus’ husband, Robens Innocent, learned of his wife’s crash when someone in New York called to tell him.
Wifrand Christophe and Geurlande Sergille learned of the crash when workers of one of the victims, Filaine Dieu, showed up at Sergille’s home banging on the doors and windows at midnight.
When Christophe opened the door, a man was standing there, his hands and arms trembling. “We’re here tell you Filaine’s been in an accident,” the trembling man said.
Christophe said the man did not want to say Dieu, who lived at the home and just arrived from Haiti in December 2020, was dead. But they could tell from his actions. Later a relative of Dieu officially broke the news to Christophe and Sergille.
Now they are trying to sort out what’s next. Where will her body go? Can people get here from Haiti to say goodbye? How will they make this work?
Robens Innocent, Innocent Julceus’ husband who was in a bad crash himself just two weeks ago, is also trying to sort out getting his wife’s mother here from Haiti. He is trying to hold it together for the couples’ two children.
“She would always give people rides,” said Innocent Julceus’ stepson, Eliezer Innocent. The 17-year-old bowed his head, looking down as spoke. “She was a good person, always trying to help others in any way she could.”
A representative for Pero Family Farms said the workers had been employed there for years.
“[We] are devastated. At Pero Family Farms, we consider all employees to be members of our extended family,” the representative said. “We are committed to supporting the victims’ families through these most difficult times.”
A preliminary crash report says Noah Galle of Wellington was in a BMW speeding up the inside lane of northbound State Road 7. Ahead of him, also traveling in the inside northbound lane, was Innocent Julceus and her five passengers. The impact of the BMW hitting the Nissan Rouge SUV made it spin, flip and then roll, landing upside down. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office believes Galle was under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The official crash report could take several months, possibly longer to complete.
Breaking News Alerts Newsletter
As it happens
Get updates on developing stories as they happen with our free breaking news email alerts.
“We don’t have answers. We don’t have anything. All we have is an investigator’s card and her broken cell phone,” said Clerna Marc, a niece of Robens Innocent.
“We are aware of the facts and we want justice. We want people to be held accountable for what happened. Six people are dead. Six families were impacted.”
Marc said Innocent Julceus’ daughter Christie cannot sleep through the night with her mother no longer in the bed with her.
“What are we to do?” she said. “[Innocent Julceus] was a very hard worker and she cared for her family. Now there are six gaping holes and we are shocked … She was a mother, very important to her family. This is devastating her children who have no mother.”
Eileen Kelley can be reached at 772-925-9193 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @reporterkell.