Victims identified after church van crash kills four parishioners

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: May 29, 2019 | 9:49 a.m.
Updated: May 29, 2019 | 3:09 p.m.

Mt. Zion Pastor Joe Fields calls crash ‘a nightmare’ as his church leans on faith for support

DINWIDDIE – Dinwiddie’s faith-based community and the entire county are reeling after a deadly crash involving a local church van left four people dead and several others injured Tuesday evening.

The crash occurred along U.S. Route 460 near Ford near Zion Road just before 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Virginia State Police representatives said the van, which was carrying nearly a dozen members of Shiloh Baptist Church in Blackstone, was heading westbound when it slowed down to turn into Mount Zion Baptist Church’s parking lot. They were visiting the church for an evening of services.

At that time, authorities said a Ford F-450 truck carrying a trailer of metal “failed to stop in time” and struck the van from behind, with it overturning several times before landing on its side.

That pick-up truck ended up running off the road and striking a guardrail, state police said.

Emergency crews rushed to the scene but, four people inside the van died as a result of their injuries. They were later identified as James Farley, 87; Wartena Somerville, 36; Delois Williams, 72; and Constance Wynn, 85, all from Blackstone.

Other passengers were either flown and transported via ambulance to various hospitals in the area for treatment of injuries ranging from serious to life-threatening, law enforcement representatives said. The driver of the truck, identified as Robert Lee Allen, 47, of Norfolk was also taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Rescue workers work to render aid to those injured in Tuesday’s crash. (Virginia State Police)

“It was a terrible accident,” Dinwiddie Sheriff D.T. Adams said in a phone call Wednesday.

Inside Mount Zion Baptist Tuesday, the church members were preparing to start their revival services, normally a joyous occasion for worshipers when the tragedy unfolded right outside their doors.

“We were having our revival, the first day of it and Shiloh Baptist Church’s choir, ushers, and other members were coming to worship with us,” Mount Zion Baptist Church pastor and local law enforcement chaplain Joe Fields shared. “Our people worked hard trying to pull some people out. The truck driver was distraught and I was praying with him. He and I just pulled on the doors trying to get some people out … we were holding hands with the people in the van and praying for them.”

For Fields, the crash hits close to home and his heart as he said he knew many of the people inside the Shiloh Baptist Church van closely.

“One of the gentlemen was a good friend of mine, he was a Korean War veteran and just a good friend,” Fields shared. “I did not know he had passed and I was trying to get him out of the van. God is still good. These things happen but it is like a nightmare.”

The pastor described the heroic actions of the men and women in his congregation Tuesday as they took selfless actions to try and save lives after the crash.

“They all sprang into action,” Fields detailed. “One of our members is a nurse and they saw one of the people who was ejected from the van so went to help them. Another member who was a nurse helped me take care of some of the people in the van that I was trying to get out. Everyone was bringing water and towels, but unfortunately, four of them passed away.”

“We stopped what we were doing and rendered aid to those people and never looked back for anything. We did the best we could until the rescue squad got there,” the pastor said.

Fields continued, “I had been under the weather myself with serious arthritis but I tell you, I forgot all about my leg and arms hurting as I tried to get those people out,” adding that the church still had a worship and prayer service that evening to provide comfort and safe harbor for those grieving.

“A lot of the family members were coming in their cars from Blackstone,” he remarked. “We had to render aid to them because they had lost members in the van. We had to be strong for other people… you take yourself out of the picture and be strong for those who are suffering.

It’s said in these times, one leans on their faith the most and for Fields and his congregation at Mount Zion, those words are in action.

“Our church is a praying church,” he said. “We got two more nights of revival, tonight and tomorrow so we are still going to worship because we have to be here for the living now. Those who are suffering from the heartache of losing a loved one. We have to be strong for them.”

In regards to the crash investigation, Virginia State Police said they are still looking into the circumstances surrounding the crash and, as of this report, charges are pending as police consult with the Dinwiddie County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office.

Copyright 2019 by Womack Publishing
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