Tampa -- The driver who challenged Deeper Life Christian Church's assertion that it had no responsibility in a recent crash that claimed the life of a teenage boy was ordered to leave church premises Thursday.
Abdoulaye Diakhate, 45, had lived in a church-owned residence and worked for the church, also known as Deeper Life Ministries, for two years. But when he spoke to The Tampa Tribune about his version of a recent church trip to South Florida, he angered Deeper Life leaders for contradicting their previous statement.
Diakhate, a trained chef, said the removal was no surprise.
He said church leader Melvin Jefferson asked to see him in a classroom where Bible study is usually held. He said the room was jammed with Jefferson's relatives and church members, curious over what would happen to Diakhate.
"He said I had joined the devil,'' Diakhate said.
When contacted by the Tribune, Pamela Reynolds, a Deeper Life spokeswoman, said: "I'm not going to comment on that. Thank you.'' She then hung up the telephone.
Diakhate drove one of three vans that transported a few dozen children from Deeper Life in Tampa to South Florida on June 5-8. Diakhate said the children, ages 7 to 14, spent their time selling candy and soliciting donations for the church at intersections. Deeper Life asserted they were on an "end-of-year school trip'' and not a church-authorized function.
On June 8, Diakhate said one of the adult supervisors decided to stay on, so the children from the supervisor's van were split between the two vehicles returning to Tampa. The accident occurred about 2 p.m. near Fort Pierce on Florida's Turnpike, when the overloaded vehicle flipped several times after Diakhate drifted onto the median and tried to correct the steering.
Diakhate said there were 16 people - 11 children and five adults - in the seven-passenger van. Solomon Bostick, 14, who attended Williams Middle School, was pinned under the vehicle and died. Eight others were injured in the wreck.
Possible charges are pending against Diakhate, who didn't have a valid driver's license. It had been suspended indefinitely after he failed to pay court-ordered fines from a 1998 accident.