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Church van crash: Blown-out tire causes accident, congregation mourns 2 deaths

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A church van crash that left 2 youth ministers dead and was caused by a blown-out tire has been a source of sadness, pain, and mourning in the First Baptist Church congregation of New Port Richey. A special service among religious members was held this Sunday morning to pray for the loss of the 2 victims killed in the freak accident, and aid those trying to cope with the awful tragedy. ABC Action News reports this Feb. 23, 2014, that the fatal crash occurred this weekend, resulted in a number of children being injured to various degrees as well, and led to a special prayer service just yesterday.

The New Port Richey community is still in mourning for the deaths of 2 esteemed members after a church van crash stunned the nation this week. A memorial service was held yesterday to honor their memory at the First Baptist Church, headed by Pastor Guy Sanders.

"We said goodbye on earth to two of the finest that we know. But Lord you spared others and we thank you for their future," prayed Pastor Guy Sanders during the congregation’s session.

Due to the unexpected and fatal nature of this tragic case, the service was heavy with prayers to help people deal with the 2 deaths — losses that sent “shock and pain” rippling throughout the local community, adds the press release. The church van crash accident was said to have taken place on Friday morning when a blown-out tire caused the driver to lose control of the vehicle while the group was heading to a Georgia youth camp.

Police officials say that when the tire blew out, the van literally careened off the road at violent speed, slamming not far from the highway on I-75 in local Columbia County. The Pastor said the loss is a trauma that will take a very long time to heal among congregation members.

"It is trauma. It's going to take some time," Pastor Sanders said.

The identities of the 2 victims killed in the crash have been made public as Michalanne Salliotte and Jeff Novak. A number of children also on board the van were hurt, with one teen — a 14-year-old male by the name of Jacob Newman — being rushed to intensive care at a local hospital with severe injuries.

"He's got a long way to go because of broken bones and some internal injuries but the word this morning was good," Pastor Sanders said after the accident.

It is said that both Salliotte and Novak were proud volunteers for the First Baptist Church congregation as youth ministers. They were said to love their work and helping young people find hope and encouragement through their faith.

"His entire life was dedicated to kids," Novak's brother-in-law John Cavalier said. "He always just had affinity for the kids and he ultimately dies serving God doing what he always did."

Salliotte was also said to be a common volunteer for mission trips. A shard of shattered glass following the church van crash was held up by the pastor during his sermon this Sunday. He said that just like the broken glass, the congregation is broken now. However, there will be a healing process, and they will recover from this tragic accident together.

"We stick together. We are stuck together by the grace of God and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ," Pastor Sanders prayed with the mourning congregation.

Ryan enjoys writing about trending news headlines and entertainment topics. To stay up-to-date on his latest stories, you can follow him on Twitter @RyanArciero or on his community Facebook page, Top News Examiner.

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