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Haiti crash: Survivors return home; church reflects on lives lost

12:05 AM, Jan 13, 2013   |    comments
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Video: New Haiti video with scene of accident

Jim & Rita Cwengros (left); Matt Kutsche (top right); Mary LaPonsie (bottom right)

GRAND RAPIDS (WZZM)-Two members of the Holy Spirit Parish in Grand Rapids are making arrangements to bring home the bodies of four missionaries, killed in a car accident in Haiti.

Matt Kutsche, Mary LaPonsie and Jim and Rita Cwengros died when their vehicle's brakes failed on Friday, sending them down a steep ravine called Tomb Gato. Their Haitian driver remains in serious condition.

Saturday, the surviving 14 missionaries returned to West Michigan. Amway offered its private aircraft for the trip. Family and friends greeted the survivors as they arrived at the Gerald R. Ford International Airport. Brian DeBruyne couldn't wait that long, so he went down to Haiti on the Amway plane to pick up his wife.

"There's grief and there's massive guilt. Anytime you have someone who didn't make it and some who did, they don't know how to process it," says DeBruyne.

Saturday night, members of Holy Spirit Parish gathered at their church for a prayer vigil, and to remember the lives lost in Friday's crash.

"Every time they would return from a trip Mary, you could just see it was hard for her to leave the people," said Anne Rossi. "I know the people at Holy Spirit will miss her and I know the people of Haiti [will], because she became one of them, just as she was one of ours."

"Jim and Rita, of course I know they're in heaven. They're with God, they have earned a spot up there, no question. It's just very scary and worrisome for their kids," said Cindy Kneibel.

"[Matt had] just a charismatic, electric personality that I think is going to leave a void in a lot of us. It's our duty to take forth what Matt taught all of us and try to be a little more like Matt every day," says Kutsche's best friend, Eric Lessens.

Saturday was also a somber day for the people of Haiti, as they marked the third anniversary of the earthquake that killed 316,000 people. The Haitian government says more than 350,000 people are still without permanent homes.

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