Local church grieves for nuns lost in fatal car crash
St. Andrew Catholic Church was in mourning Monday following the death of two sisters from its parish.
Sisters Ann McFall, 84, and Karinne O’Malley, 80, were fatally injured Sunday in a two-car accident in North Fort Myers. Sister O’Malley died at the crash site, while Sister McFall was taken to Lee Memorial Hospital, where she later succumbed to her injuries.
The Rev. Mark Heuberger said he knew the sisters for three years, and that they were instrumental in the church and school’s success. He added that Sister O’Malley was one of the school’s founding members.
“Karinne was here 20 years ago. She was a founding sister, then went on to other work,” Heuberger said.
Also involved in the accident was Sister Elizabeth Meegan, 67, also of St Andrew’s parish. She was driving the car occupied by Sisters O’Malley and McFall.
Officials reported Sister Meegan was released Monday from Lee Memorial Hospital after being treated for injuries she sustained in the crash.
According to Heuberger, Sisters Meegan and O’Malley were very close, having helped to build the school over the last two decades. Sister Meegan is the school’s principal.
“They worked together for many years,” he said. “It’s like losing a family member. It was a great sisterhood they shared.”
According to a report from the Florida Highway Patrol, an SUV driven by Michael Hickman collided Sunday afternoon with a Toyota Prius driven by Sister Meegan at the corner of U.S. 41 and Gran Via Drive.
Hickman, who was driving a Chevy Tahoe, was traveling north on U.S. 41 in the left turn lane and turned left to travel west on Gran Via when he entered the path of the Prius, the report states.
The force of the collision caused both vehicles to spin with the SUV coming to rest across the eastbound lanes of Gran Via facing north. The Prius came to rest in the intersection facing west, according to the report.
Gran Via is the street that leads into the entryway of the Del Tura community.
As of Monday evening no official charges had been filed against Hickman. The report states FHP investigators are looking into possible alcohol use.
A spokeswoman for Lee Memorial Hospital reported Hickman was listed in good condition Monday.
According to biographies released by Fuller Funeral Home, Sister O’Malley moved to Cape Coral in 1988, serving as an administrative assistant at St. Andrew until 1996, when she became a migrant tutor in Bonita Springs.
Sister McFall worked as a volunteer at St Andrew beginning in 2007.
They were returning home Sunday from a regional meeting of the Dominican Sisters, officials reported. Both received their training at Sinsinawa Dominican Novitiate in southern Wisconsin.
As the school day unfolded Monday, church leaders were doing their best to keep things operating normally for the students.
Heuberger said the older children were aware of the event’s magnitude, while the younger children were coming to grips with it more slowly. He encouraged students to open up about how they felt, and not keep anything inside.
While St. Andrew Catholic Church has had to deal with the natural death of some of its parishioners, an incident of such seriousness has never struck it before.
“We’ve certainly never had to deal with something like this impacting the school,” Heuberger said.
A viewing will be held for Sisters O’Malley and McFall at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at St. Andrew Catholic Church. A funeral Mass will follow at 11 a.m.
Arrangements were still being made Monday.
Those interested in making donations to St. Andrew should contact the parish office at 772-3922.
Andrea Galabinski, editor of the North Fort Myers Neighbor, contributed to this report.