Updated at 2 p.m. ET
news editor, Adventist Review
A Seventh-day Adventist church in the U.S. state of New York was reeling with grief after three of its members, including a teenager, were killed in a road tragedy as they left a church-organized men’s prayer conference.
A van carrying five men and two teens from the Bethesda French Seventh-day Adventist Church in Brooklyn was entering a highway in upstate New York at around 10:30 a.m. Sunday when it was struck by a tractor-trailer, police said.
The van’s occupants had just attended a three-day Men's Prayer Convention organized by the Adventist Church’s Greater New York Conference in the city of Ellenville, a 2-hour, 20-minute drive north of Brooklyn.
“We solicit your prayers for the members of the Bethesda Church family,” said Rohann D. Wellington, communication director for the Greater New York Conference.
Police identified the three passengers who were killed as Miguel St Louis, 17; Ricadeau Anantua, 33; and Garry Edouard, 48.
The van’s driver, Guepson Gue, 61, and another passenger, Mario Esteverne Sr., 59, were airlifted to a medical center, where they were in stable condition. The two other passengers, Mario Esteverne Jr., 16, and Ariel Regis, 35, were treated for minor injuries at the Ellenville hospital and released.
The 37-year-old driver of the tractor-trailer sustained minor injuries.
A preliminary investigation suggested that the driver of the van failed to halt at a stop sign before entering the highway, the New York Daily News reported Tuesday.
The van was just minutes from the convention center when the tractor-trailer plowed into its passenger side, church members said.
Regis, who suffered scratches and a bloodshot eye in the accident, said he was entering an address into an electronic navigator when the collision happened.
“I can’t really remember what happened,” a clearly rattled Regis told NBC television. “My head was down. When I looked up, the car got hit.”
Television footage from the scene of the crash showed a mangled mess of metal of what used to be the van.
Regis expressed shock that he was alive.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a dead person alive. You are looking at one,” he said. “I’m a dead person walking.”
Counseling was being offered to the families and the about 100 members of the church, the Greater New York Conference said in a statement.
"They are going through a very, very painful and terrible time now,” said Dr. Alanzo Smith, family counselor for the Greater New York Conference, in remarks to NBC.