OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- An end of summer float trip ended before it began on Friday when a church van crash near Bolivar, Mo., claimed the lives of three teenagers from the metro. The van was carrying 13 people from Faith Chapel Assembly of God; two adult chaperones and 11 teenagers.
Early indications are that the van or trailer it was hauling may have blown a tire, causing the driver to lose control and careen down an embankment.
A good Samaritan told FOX4 that the scene was pretty horrific as he and members in another vehicle from the church tried to save teens pinned underneath the van. Victims were identified as Hannah Foy of Louisburg, 14, David Martin of Olathe, 16, and Samara Bayse of Stillwell, 17. An adult passenger and two other teens suffered serious injures.
The man who tried to help described the tragic scene to FOX4.
"Today I would rather have been nowhere else than to be there to be able to help and assist, not that I could do very much," said a man who only wanted to be identified as Matt.
The Polk County man was driving down Highway 13 when he saw the van had gone off of the highway, down a hill and into a tree.
As he and a friend ran to help, he`d find out it was a van loaded with the group from Faith Chapel Assembly of God churches in Overland Park and Louisburg. Matt said five teens were ejected and the van was on top of two girls.
"These are all kids that we`ve known since they were babies and even some of the adults I`ve known since they were just young teenagers, so everybody is at a loss what to do, where to go, how to help," said church member Lynn Ross.
Matt had the same feelings of helplessness as people showing up to pray at the church Friday night, but ran to his car to get a jack so first responders could free one of the girls and get her airlifted to the hospital. He said he then worked with the Polk County sheriff and others to tip the van off the other victim, but it was too late.
"I cannot imagine the emotional stress and devastation for such an unnatural event to happen to a parent to lose their kids. I just ask that people`s prayers be with the parents," Matt said.
"Wednesday night the one girl was walking by and she did that to me, the 'I love you sign.' I was just walking by, so I`ll never forget that," Ross said.
Families of injured victims traveled to hospitals in Bolivar and Springfield Friday night, while people back at home tried to support them and their church community.
"All we can do is hang together like we always do, as a family and trust the lord to take care of the families," Ross said.
There were a lot of signs of support for the two churches and victims affected Friday night, FOX4 noticed several churches changing their Facebook page banners to say "Pray for Faith Chapel."