An end-of-summer trip for a Kansas church youth group was tragically canceled Friday morning when three teenagers were killed and 10 others injured after a van they were traveling in blew a tire and crashed.
"The kids we lost were amazing absolutely amazing, bright lights among us all," Pastors Bob and Sondra Cave, who lead the three-campus Faith Chapel Assembly of God, wrote in an announcement of the accident on Facebook Saturday.
A report from The Kansas City Star said the van from Faith Chapel Assembly of God was carrying 11 children and two church chaperones. It was heading southbound on the Missouri 13 to a weekend floating trip when shortly before 10:30 a.m., it swerved off the highway, overturned and struck a tree about five miles north of Bolivar.
The three teenagers killed — David Martin, 16, of Olathe; Hannah Foy, 14, of Louisburg, and Samara Bayse 17, of Stillwell — were all ejected from the van and died on the spot, authorities said. Three others were also seriously injured, and seven people sustained injuries that were not serious, according to KCTV5.
"The tire had blown out and that's what caused it," Melissa Britton, the Polk County coroner, told The Kansas City Star. "He (the driver) was keeping it on the road, but the trailer the van was pulling started to fishtail, and the momentum carried them off the road."
Other members of the church were also traveling behind the church van that crashed with two other vehicles and they witnessed what happened, Britton explained.
"They saw the tire blow and everything," she said.
Some passengers became trapped under the crashed vehicle and "it had to be lifted up off them," Britton continued while noting that she didn't know how many were wearing a seatbelt.
"The wife of the gentleman who was driving the (church) van, she was driving the minivan (in caravan behind church van)," Britton added. "She's actually a nurse, and as soon as it happened, she got out and was triaging and she was helping. She did amazing. She got out and did what she was destined to do."
The Rev. Bob Cave said each campus of the church with locations in Overland Park, Louisburg and Gardner lost a member.
"Other than the fact that they are with Christ, nothing softens the blow for us," Cave said. "We are grieving, we are hurting and we are in terrible pain. It is hard to make sense of it."
Tommy was one of the worship leaders at the Faith Chapel in Gardner, The Kansas City Star said. His uncle, the Rev. Andrew Thomas, is the senior pastor.
"Tommy was a very quiet kid, but a wonderful kid," Cave recalled. "He was studious, very talented. He played keyboards and led worship."
Cave said Samara had told him after her return from camp this summer that God had told her she was supposed to be a youth pastor. She had recently won a scholarship from the Assembly of God Ministries for her first level of ministry credentials.
"That was no surprise to us," Cave said. "Samara was just amazing. Bubbly, fun and jokey, but very serious about serving."
The Caves, who have led the church for more than 25 years, said they watched many of the teenagers in youth group grow up.
"They led the way," Sondra Cave told KCTV5 of the teenagers who died. "If you knew them, you knew where they stood spiritually."
A GoFundMe campaign is currently seeking to raise $50,000 to help with funeral and medical expenses.