TINNIE, N.M. (BP)–Three members of the First Baptist Church of Alamogordo, N.M., were killed and ten others injured following a Jan. 8 bus crash that also took the life of the church’s associate pastor.
Emmett Carson, 70, the associate pastor of FBC Alamogordo, was among those killed when a tractor-trailer rig slammed into the church van as it was preparing to enter a cemetery for a funeral. The driver of the van, Garland Peek, 48, also served as the church’s minister of education.
A church spokesperson told Baptist Press the tragedy could not have come at a worse time for the 700-member church. The church is without a pastor or youth pastor. “It’s been very hard for us to deal with,” the spokesperson said. “Now, we don’t have any full time staff to help us through.”
State police reported the van was turning into the cemetery on U.S. Highway 70 when they were rear-ended by the semi. The driver was among those injured.
Three of the injured church members remained in critical condition at two area hospitals, the church spokesperson said.
Carson had been the church’s associate pastor for 18 years. The other church members killed were identified as Flo Otto and Vera Wagner.
Peek was in stable condition at a local hospital.
Church members held a prayer service the night of the accident and began grieving for those who lost their lives in the crash. “We are a close-knit fellowship and this is such a tragedy,” the spokesperson said. “But we know the Lord is here and He is our leader.”
Southern Baptist churches throughout New Mexico have reached out to the small church. “It is obvious that (First Baptist, Alamogordo) is a loving, close-knit family,” Tim Gilliland, pastor of First Baptist, Ruidoso, told The Baptist New Mexican. “There was a sweet spirit in the midst of a horrible situation.”
State police said the cause of the accident remained under investigation and no charges have been filed.