Two young sisters who were passengers in a car that crashed into an Alligator Alley canal Monday morning have died.
Rylee Douglas, 3, died at Physicians Regional just before midnight on Monday, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. Her sister, Madison Douglas, 4, was taken off life support at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg just before 9 p.m. on Tuesday, according to family friend Ron Eagle.
"She was lying in her father's arms and went very quietly," Eagle said. "It was very quiet; very peaceful. She is now free to join her mother and sister."
The girls' mother, Cecilia Renee Douglas, 33, died Monday after her 2005 Lexus struck the rear end of another vehicle, veered off the roadway near the 87 mile marker of Alligator Alley and crashed through a fence and into a canal.
Golden Gate firefighters were able to smash out the windows of the Lexus and remove the three victims, NBC-2 reported. But at that time the vehicle had been in the water for about a half hour. All three victims had been wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, reports said.
"When they brought them out, they were not breathing on their own," FHP Sgt. Norman Parks told NBC-2.
Nathan Douglas, 28 — Cecilia's husband and the girls' father — is a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer, Eagle said. He arrived at the scene of the crash while medics attempted to revive his family.
"This is a blow," Eagle said. "You take one of these blows and it will rattle you deep in the core of your soul."
Nathan and Cecilia met in college, Eagle said. They married in 2006 and moved from Eustis, Fla., to Collier County in 2010. Cecilia was a co-manager at an Ann Taylor Factory Store in Sunrise, Fla.
"She was a woman of strong faith and a light when she walked in the room," Eagle said of Cecilia. "She smiled. She found the positive and good in everyone."
Eagle said Madison had a "bright and contagious smile." He described Rylee as a "typical 3-year-old, full of life, mischievous."
"She was the bubbly one of the two," he said. "Madison was a bit more reserved."
The three people in the second vehicle all sustained injuries — two minor, one serious, according to the FHP.
Eagle said Nathan Douglas has a strong Christian faith, as did Cecilia.
"His Christian faith is what's carrying him through right now," Eagle said.
A fund to help Nathan Douglas pay for funeral expenses has been established at Sun Trust Bank, Eagle said.
A second memorial fund was established by Erica Ellis, one of Cecilia Douglas' co-workers. To donate, visit www.youcaring.com/memorial-fundraiser/Cecilia-Douglas-Rylee-Douglas-Memorial-Fund/40060.