BLAKELY, Ga. — An aging church van headed to an out-of-state revival blew a tire on a highway and flipped repeatedly, ejecting all 19 people on board and killing the pastor and three others, authorities said today.
A woman who survived told investigators that "everybody just flew out of the van," said Early County coroner Todd Hunter
"She said she remembered rolling, but didn't know if she was rolling inside or outside of the van," Hunter said.
In addition to those who died, 15 passengers were injured in the crash Sunday evening on U.S. 27 south of Blakely, said Gordy Wright, spokesman for the Georgia State Patrol.
The dead included Apostle Ronmyka D. Williams, the 35-year-old pastor of the Tabernacle of Prayer and Deliverance in Columbus. Hunter said the pastor's brother identified his body.
The State Patrol identified the other three killed as 20-year-old Jennifer Walton, 19-year-old Cameron Freeman and 13-year-old Jasmin Shelly. All were from Columbus. They named the driver as Kenasha Seldon, 29, from Shiloh, Ga.
Wright said the passengers ranged in age from 11 months to adults in their 40s. He said all 15 survivors were taken to hospitals, with several being airlifted to hospitals in Tallahassee, Fla., and Dothan, Ala.
It was unclear Monday how seriously they were hurt, but Wright said it appears no one in the van was wearing a seat belt.
"They were all ejected," Wright said. "Anytime you have an ejection, especially in a crash like that, the injuries are going to be serious."
The 1987 Dodge Ram Wagon van was on a 150-mile drive from Columbus to a revival in Quincy, Fla., when a rear tire blew out, causing the driver to lose control, Wright said. The vehicle hit the median and flipped several times.
No other vehicles were involved in the crash.
The van, with an intended capacity of 15 passengers, was from William's Columbus church. A phone listing for the church was disconnected.