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1 killed in Ark. church bus crash

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (BP)–One woman was killed and more than 25 were injured when a busload of Hispanic Baptist pastors and church members crashed April 24 on Interstate 40 between Russellville and Clarksville, Ark.

Anna Del Carmen Ortez, 56, of Rogers, Ark., died in the crash, which occurred at about 5 p.m.

The group of about 35 people was returning from the Arkansas Baptist State Convention-sponsored Hispanic Family Conference at Lifeline Baptist Church in Little Rock.

Two of the injured were airlifted to Little Rock and remain hospitalized. The others were treated in Russellville and Clarksville hospitals and released over the weekend.

Lidinia Cerda, 13, the daughter of Daniel Cerda, coordinator of Hispanic ministries for the Northwest Arkansas Baptist Association, is in stable but critical condition at Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. She was thrown around inside the bus as it rolled and broke her hip, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. She underwent pelvic surgery the evening of April 24 and remained in intensive care April 26.

An unidentified woman remained in stable but critical condition at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Medical Center in Little Rock.
Other injuries included broken arms, legs, ribs and head trauma.

“Arkansas Baptists have come together en masse for support and prayer,” said R.E. Clark of the Northwest Arkansas Baptist Association. “We thank God there was only one loss of life.”

Police spokesman Bill Sadler told KTHV-TV in Little Rock it was a single-vehicle accident. Sadler said the bus, westbound on I-40, was from First Baptist Church in Bentonville in northwest Arkansas. The bus hit a guardrail, spun and flipped, according to news reports. An investigation into the cause of the accident is ongoing.

The group left Little Rock sometime after 3 p.m. Saturday. Elaine Casey, a member of First Baptist Bentonville, was driving the bus. She and her husband, Jerry, both were injured, according to Clark.

“You never want to see a tragedy like this happen,” Phillip Smith, pastor of the Bentonville church, told the Democrat-Gazette. “We had a special time of prayer last night.”
Charlie Warren is editor of the Arkansas Baptist News.

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