Church van crash leaves 14-year-old girl dead - WKRN News 2

Church van crash leaves 14-year-old girl dead

Posted: Updated: July 28, 2011 9:27 PM CDT
Mackenzie Turner, 14, died in the crash on I-40 in Humphreys County Thursday morning. Mackenzie Turner, 14, died in the crash on I-40 in Humphreys County Thursday morning.

WAVERLY, Tenn. – A 14-year-old Columbia girl was killed in a crash Thursday morning as she returned home from an overnight church retreat with her youth group.

Three others were seriously injured in the accident, which occurred just after 9 a.m. on Interstate 40 in Humphreys County outside of Waverly, about 55 miles west of Nashville.

Mackenzie Turner was a passenger in a van from Destiny Church in Columbia, one of three vehicles transporting the group from Munford, in west Tennessee, back to the church following the overnight concert and lock-in.

Thursday evening a close family friend released a statement from the Turner family.

"She was a very sweet girl, she was very artistic and her family will really miss her," Krista Clark said.

Turner was an only child. A Facebook page was created in her memory. By Thursday night hundreds of members had joined and left condolences for the Turner family.

The van was traveling east on I-40 when the driver, 24-year-old Bobby Sasser, a youth pastor at the church, apparently lost control of the van near the exit ramp to Highway 13, hit a light post and overturned.

The van landed on its roof in the median between exit 143 off-ramp and the outermost eastbound lane.

Scattered in the grass were backpacks, water bottles and a first aid kit, among other debris.

The van had 12 occupants, seven males and five females.
 
Turner was pronounced dead at the scene.  The Tennessee Highway Patrol said she was not wearing her seatbelt.

The three most seriously injured passengers, a 13-year-old boy, a 11-year-old girl and 15-year-old girl, were taken by helicopter to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

The THP said they were also not wearing their seat belts.

A hospital spokeswoman upgraded their conditions from critical to stable condition Thursday afternoon.

Patients with non-critical patients, including the van's driver, were taken to Three Rivers Hospital in nearby Waverly.

No other vehicles were involved and the THP is investigating the possibility that the driver fell asleep.

The non-denominational Destiny Church was founded in 2007 by its current pastor, Steven Morgan.  It began holding services in a home and is now located on the square in Columbia.

Jean Ann Turner, Mackenzie's mother, collapsed upon learning of her daughter's death in the parking lot late Thursday morning.  Her daughter would have been a freshman at Central High School in the fall.

Columbia business owner Chuck Killion's 15-year-old daughter was a passenger in the van traveling in front of the vehicle that crashed.

He told Nashville's News 2 his daughter called him hysterical shortly after witnessing the accident.

"I'm one of the lucky dads," Killion said, adding, "I guarantee it no one after that thought someone wouldn't be making it home."

Killion estimated that there were about 30 people, mostly kids, who attended the lock-in and were on their way home.  He said Bobby Sasser's wife, Cat, was also in the van that crashed.

Midday Thursday, Killion said his daughter was still at the scene.  He said she wants to be a youth pastor and didn't want to leave the scene until she was sure she did all she could for those involved.

Church member Bradd Kimes said this is a difficult time for the church.

"We're sad. They are a special group of kids, it's a tight group and it's a church that's all about supporting this community," he said.

The off ramp from I-40 East to Highway 13 was shut down for several hours while the Tennessee Highway Patrol investigated the crash and crews cleared the scene.

Thursday is not the first time Destiny Church members have had to grieve.

Earlier this summer, a teenage member and another teen were killed in a car accident in Mt. Pleasant.

That wreck in late June claimed the lives of 17-year-old Sarah Graham and 16-year-old Kyle Tate.  Two others were injured.

Graham was a member of Destiny Church.

*The Columbia Daily Herald and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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