Thursday, July 28, 2011

Another Church Van Death: 1 Killed, 3 Critically Injured In Passenger Van Crash On I-40

July 28, 2011: BUFFALO, Tenn. – A teenager has been killed and three others critically injured after a passenger van carrying 12 people from a church group rolled and crashed off Interstate 40 in Humphreys County.

Click here to read original story on News Channel 5 website.

The teen killed has been identified by the Tennessee Highway Patrol as 14-year-old Mackenzie Turner. Investigators said she was not wearing a seatbelt.

The crash happened around 9 a.m. Thursday at exit 143 and State Highway 13 near the Tennessee River - about 67 miles west of Nashville. Investigators said the van ran off the right side of the road into a gore, flipped over and struck a pole. It came to rest on its top.

Officials said the van was one of three vehicles traveling together eastbound from Memphis.

They were transporting a group of youth from Destiny Church in Columbia.

The group was returning to Maury County from an overnight church "lock-in" and Skyhook concert at River of Life Church in Munford, just outside Memphis.

12-year-old Shelby Hopkins, 13-year-old Sebastian Kerr, and 15-year-old Sidney Massey were transported by air Monroe Carroll Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

All three were transported in critical condition, and have been upgraded to stable condition. They were also not wearing seatbelts.

The driver of the van, 24-year-old Bobby Joe Sasser, along with 15-year-old Joseph Penrod, 16-year-old Austyn Kelley, 13-year-old Thomas Morgan, 12-year-old Carleigh Yokley, 16-year-old Travis Ingram, 15-year-old David Andrews, and 15-year-old Brooke Yokley were transported to Three Rivers Hospital. A crash report showed Sasser and two of the passengers were the only ones wearing seatbelts.

Troopers are investigating the possibility that the driver fell asleep.

NewsChannel 5 spoke to the fiancé of Mackenzie's mother who said this is especially hard because Mackenzie was her mother's only child.

"They had a real special bond and they had each other. They had each other. That's all I can say right now," said David Hadley.

Destiny Church is a close-knit congregation with about 300 members. Friends and their parents gathered at the church in Downtown Columbia after hearing the news.

This is the second fatal accident the youth at Destiny Church has dealt with in the past weeks.

Last month, 17-year-old Sara Graham, who was a member at the church, was killed in a vehicle accident in Mt. Pleasant.

One of the board members of the church said they all really need the prayers of their community to deal with a loss like this again.

"They are a special group of kids and it's a tight group. It's a church all about supporting this community. In times of tragedy the community has supported us and we appreciate it," said Brad Kimes.

The pastor for Destiny Church is on a mission trip in Guatemala, but is on his way back to Nashville.

The pastor from the Munford church released a statement saying they're saddened by this tragedy and praying for the families of the victims.

All eastbound lanes of I-40 were closed while emergency medical crews worked to help the victims. Traffic was initially shut in both directions so two medical helicopters could land to take the injured to hospitals.

(The Associated Press Contributed To This Report.)

Click here to read original story on News Channel 5 website.