First responders and members of Webbs Chapel Baptist Church are being hailed as heroes after they helped pull a man to safety from a burning vehicle after the car’s driver crashed through the front of the church building on March 8.
Witnesses say the driver apparently lost consciousness and barreled through a stop sign at a T-intersection in front of the church’s property in Edgecombe County, North Carolina. The vehicle slammed through the wall of a prayer room adjacent to the church’s foyer. Moments later, the car caught fire inside the building with the driver trapped inside.
No one was at the church at the time of the incident, but a passerby who stopped to assist was soon joined by the church’s pastor and other members who live near the church as news of the accident quickly spread.
Those on the scene worked frantically to rescue the driver trapped inside while waiting for first responders to arrive. Their rescue efforts were complicated, however, by limited access to the vehicle and smoke that filled the room where the car was lodged.
Firefighters used a brush truck to pull the vehicle from the building which allowed a member of the North Carolina Highway Patrol to pull the driver to safety through the passenger side door. Fire crews were then able to extinguish the flames on the vehicle and inside the church building.
The driver of the vehicle was treated at the scene and transported to a local hospital where he was expected to make a full recovery.
‘Place of hope’
The highway patrol officer who responded to the incident and pulled the driver from the car is also a member of the church, according to pastor Stephen Duncan.
“They did some heroic things to save him,” said longtime church member Joesy Harrell, who was among the first people to arrive at the scene along with Duncan.
Duncan said he was able to pray with the driver before he was transported to the hospital by ambulance. Duncan visited him in the hospital the day after the crash and said he plans to continue to visit and minister to him.
“I told him that he crashed into a place of hope,” Duncan said. “We’re praying hard for him.”
After the crash, church leaders shifted that evening’s scheduled activities to the church’s family life center, where members came together to pray and process the events of the day.
Duncan said he shared from Haggai 2:9 with those who gathered: “‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”
‘God is going to use this’
The church will conduct worship services in the family life center for the foreseeable future. The accident completely destroyed the prayer room and caused extensive fire and smoke damage to the sanctuary, Duncan said.
“We know that God is going to use this,” Duncan said. “We are going to move forward and still do ministry. … I’m excited to see how God is going to turn this for His glory.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Chad Austin and originally published by the Biblical Recorder.