MOUNT DORA, Fla. — A Collier County mother and her two daughters killed in a car crash earlier in the week were remembered in an emotional funeral service Saturday in Mount Dora.
Cecilia Douglas, 33, and her daughters, Rylee, 3, and Madison, 4, died after their Lexus veered off Alligator Alley on Monday morning and crashed into a canal. The car sat submerged upside down in 25 feet of water for more than 30 minutes before rescuers could pull them from the car.
Nathan Douglas, a Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer who regularly patrols Alligator Alley, was off duty when his wife's car crashed, but arrived on the scene later.
Family, friends and co-workers showed up in Central Florida on Saturday to support the grieving father and husband.
"Seems like a really bad nightmare that hasn't gone away and hasn't stopped," said Sarah White, Cecilia's friend. "It's just, it's just so hard to take it in."
Cecilia Douglas was described as a country girl with a contagious smile, a loving mother and wife, devoted to her faith.
"When you were having a bad day she was like a bright star that was in your life," said Jill Santos, Cecilia's friend.
The first responders who desperately tried to save Douglas' family were honored at the service.
"It's just a horrific situation that nobody would ever want to see themselves in," said fellow FWC officer Jorge Pino. "How could you go on after that?
"I don't know how he's going to be able to just put his uniform on and get back to work. He's a first responder, so we're used to doing this and we're used to responding to tragedies and helping people but we're not that used to turning the tables and we are the victims."
The trooper first on scene, Gualberto Morales, tied himself to a tree and jumped in to try to save the girls. He used a shatter tool to try to break the windows open – but couldn't.
FWC officers who work with Nathan are going through crisis counseling to help them cope with a tragedy that hit so close to home.
Nathan Douglas' brothers say he isn't questioning why or what if. Instead, he's finding peace and comfort through his faith, knowing that his three girls are together — and he will see them again.
"They're with their mom in heaven you know and that they're doing better than we are," said Justin Douglas, Nathan's brother.
"It's a peace we know they're OK and he knows they're OK," he said.