Truck driver involved in deadly church van crash charged

By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: June 10, 2019 | 11:20 a.m.

DINWIDDIE – The driver of a truck that slammed into the back of a church van as it attempted to drive into the parking lot of a U.S. Route 460 church has been charged with reckless driving.

Monday morning, officials with Virginia State Police confirmed Robert Lee Allen, 47, of Norfolk has been charged with reckless driving nearly two weeks after a crash along U.S. Route 460 at Zion Road left four parishioners from Blackstone dead and a community reeling.

On May 29, state police 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 driven by Allen “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.

Allen was also taken to the hospital with minor injuries.

Monday, authorities confirmed Allen had been charged in connection with the deadly crash and Virginia State Police’s Crash Reconstruction Team continues to investigate.

The devastating crash served to showcase the heroics of members of Mount Zion Baptist Church, who ran outside and immediately began to render aid to those injured in the crash, according to the church’s pastor Joe Fields.

“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.

Funerals for those lost in the crash have been held over the past few weeks.

Stay with The Dinwiddie Monitor for the latest information on this developing story.

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