SILER, Ky. (ABP) — A youth mission trip from a Southern Baptist church
in Georgia took a terrifying turn June 9 when a van carrying 13
passengers crashed head-on into a semi-trailer coal truck on a
rain-slicked highway in eastern Kentucky.
Two adult sponsors and three teenagers received injuries in the crash on a hairpin curve on Highway 92 in Whitley County, Ky., near the Tennessee state line. Locals told media outlets the turn is tricky even for drivers familiar with the area.
The driver of the van, Terry Taphouse, minister to students at Belmont Baptist Church in Gainesville, Ga., and his wife, Lois, were most seriously injured. They were airlifted to the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington. Both are expected to survive.
Three teenagers — Holly Hawkins from Belmont Baptist Church; Derek Worley from Walnut Fork Baptist Church in Hoschton, Ga., and Morgan Heslep from North Metro First Baptist Church in Lawrenceville, Ga. — were treated for lesser injuries and released from Jellico Community Hospital in Jellico, Tenn.
Though shaken, the youth group of junior- and senior-high students decided to continue their week-long mission trip, which ends June 12. The group is working with Friends for Families, an outreach ministry led by Melany Hanrahan, a Mission Service Corps missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board.
Friends for Families focus mainly on home repairs in the Corbin and Williamsburg areas in Whitley County, Ky., one of the poorest counties in Kentucky. They also include projects like vacation Bible school and other events for children and youth.
The 13 passengers on the van were part of a 29-member mission team, mostly teenagers. Witnesses at the scene, including another group of students following in a separate van, called it a miracle that no one was killed.
"It was a bad one, one of the worst ones we've had in a while," Patterson Creek Fire Chief Tim Vanover told CBF affiliate WKYT in Lexington, Ky.
Crash scene photos showed a crushed driver-seat compartment. Taphouse was reportedly pinned by the steering wheel and dash, forcing rescuers to take a significant amount of time to extricate him.
The driver of the coal truck was unhurt.
According to the Belmont Baptist Church website, Taphouse has been involved in youth ministry in various capacities for 20 years. Before coming to the church in October 2007, he was volunteer youth leader at Rolling Hills Baptist Church in Buford, Ga. He met Lois, his wife of 24 years, while both served in the Air Force. They have four children.
Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.