Family mourns children killed in three-car crash

Cpt. Rick Kelley, center, with the Florida Highway Patrol offers his condolences Thursday to Tina Mann, the sister-in-law of Barbara Mann and aunt to all seven siblings killed in Wednesday's school bus accident on S.R. 121 in Lake Butler. To the left of Tina Mann is Johnathon Warfel, 20, half brother of Nikki Mann the 15-year-old driver in Wednesday's fatal accident. At far right is Nikki's cousin Wesley Mann, 19.

DOUG FINGER/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Friday, January 27, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 27, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
LAKE BUTLER - She wanted to become a massage therapist. And she looked forward to attending church with her family every Wednesday.
But most of all, Cynthia Nicole Mann, the 15-year-old who was among six other children killed in a fiery, three-vehicle crash Wednesday, loved children.
She loved children so much that she treated her adopted brothers and sisters like they were her own, said Mann's aunt Tina Mann on Thursday. Cynthia Mann, known by many as "Nikki," especially took to Tina Mann's 8-year-old daughter, Alyssa, who was born premature and has special needs, Tina Mann said.
"Nikki has been an angel," Tina Mann told The Sun tearfully during an interview at her home on State Road 121 - just minutes from the site where her niece and six other children, ranging in ages from 20 months to 15 years, were killed.
The children were supposed to go home and get ready to go to church, as they did every Wednesday night, Tina Mann said.
Tragedy struck the family a second time after the children's grandfather, William Edward Scott, 62, of Hawthorne, suffered an apparent heart attack Wednesday night at the home of his daughter, Barbara Mann, according to relatives and Union County Sheriff's Office officials.
Tina Mann said her niece was a sophomore at Union County High School and never knew a stranger.
"She was a special child and she wanted to help everyone," Tina Mann said.
Cynthia Nicole Mann, 15, was behind the wheel of a green Pontiac Bonneville when a tractor-trailer driven by Alvin Wilkerson, 31, slammed into the back of the car, causing a chain-reaction crash that sent the car plowing into a Union County school bus with nine children on board. Cynthia Mann was driving illegally, troopers say.
The teen's adopted brothers and sisters also killed were Elizabeth Mann, 15; Johnny Mann, 13; Heaven Mann, 3; and Anthony Lamb, 20 months, who was to be adopted by Barbara and Terry Mann Thursday, Tina Mann said. The other two children killed were Miranda Finn, 10, and Ashley Keen, 15, and are both the daughters of Amanda Scott - Barbara Mann's sister - and cousins of Cynthia Mann, according to Tina Mann.
Johnathon Warfel, Cynthia Mann's half-brother, told The Sun that the Manns had been foster parents for "several years."
Steven Murphy, CEO of Partnership for Strong Families, which works with foster families with the Department of Children and Families' District 3, confirmed that the Manns were a foster home within the DCF system. He also confirmed that the couple were in the process of adopting 20-month-old Anthony.
"We can't comment on adoptive children," Murphy said, "but we will do anything we can to help the Mann family."
During a news conference at Union County High School, the Rev. Scott Fisher, pastor of the Church of Christ in Lake Butler and the family's spokesman, said the family is in shock and grieving over the deaths of the children and William Scott. Fisher said that the family is thankful for the outpouring of support from the community here.
"Maybe the children really aren't ours. They're God's and he's called them home," Fisher said.
Sun staff writer Diane Chun contributed to this report.
Deborah Ball can be reached at (352) 338-3109 or

The ties that bind The seven children killed in Wednesday's traffic accident outside Lake Butler were a mix of biological, adopted and foster children. The following is a breakdown of their family relationships:
WILLIAM EDWARD SCOTT Of Hawthorne, was the father of Barbara Mann and Amanda Scott, mothers of the children who died. He is the biological grandfather of Miranda Finn, 10, and Ashley Keen, 15, and adoptive grandfather of four of the other children who died. He would have been the grandfather of Anthony Lamb, who was to have been adopted Thursday.
William Edward Scott, who family said was 70, died of a heart attack late Wednesday night after being told of the children's deaths.
BARBARA MANN Of Lake Butler. Stepmother of Cynthia Nicole Mann, 15, the driver of the car in which she and six other children died. Adoptive mother of Elizabeth Mann, 15; Johnny Mann, 13 (Elizabeth and Johnny were blood siblings), and Heaven Mann, 3. Foster mother of Anthony Lamb, 20 months, whom the Mann family was scheduled to adopt Thursday. All of her children died.
TERRY MANN Of Lake Butler. Married to Barbara Mann. Biological father of Cynthia Nicole Mann, and adoptive or foster father of Elizabeth, Johnny, Heaven and Anthony.
AMANDA SCOTT Biological mother of Ashley Keen, 15, and Miranda Finn, 10, all of whom recently had moved from the Hawthorne area to Worthington Springs, about 7 miles from Lake Butler. Both of her children died.
DAVID FINN Biological father of Miranda Finn. He had joint custody of his daughter, and every other weekend came from his home in Orlando to spend with her at his parents' home in Hawthorne.

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