Prayer Vigil Planned for 6 Killed in Church Van Crash

Monday, Sep 20, 2010  |  Updated 11:46 AM EDT
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Fatal Crash in Woodbury Kills 6

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Fatal Crash in Woodbury Kills 6

A fatal car accident claims the lives of at least six people and critically injures seven others. On Saturday, a van carrying members from Baychester's Joy Fellowship Christian Ministries Church careened off I-87 just north of Exit 16.
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Members of a church that lost its bishop and five other members in a van wreck will hold a prayer vigil Monday, just days after the tragic accident that killed the Bronx church's bishop and five other members.]

Congregants are still in shock and about 100 gathered Sunday to mourn the dead and pray for survivors. The mostly Jamaican chruch, called the Joy Fellowship Christian Assemblies on Sunday, is a small house of worship in Oliville in the Bronx.

A public vigil is planned for 6 p.m. Monday at the chruch on East Gun Hill Road.

The church's spiritual leader, Bishop Simon White and 13 others were on the New York State Thruway, headed to a church event near Schenectady, when a rear tire ruptured and sent their 1997 van hurtling out of control on Saturday afternoon, state police said. The van veered into a rumble strip and rolled over into the grassy median, throwing some of the passengers to the ground.

"t was a tragic, tragic scene,'' said state police Troop T commander Major Robert Meyers.

He said the right rear tire blew out on the 1997 van, and the vehicle went into a rumble strip and rolled over into the grassy median separating the north and southbound lanes. Some of the passengers were ejected, and the van came to a rest upside-down.

The accident site was five miles north of the highway exit to the mall, about 47 miles northwest of Manhattan.

The injured were taken to either Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern or Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla. The driver survived and was being interviewed, he said. State police identified them as members of Joy Fellowship Christian Assemblies Inc., a small congregation in the Bronx, and said the church's leaders, bishop Simon White, his wife, minister

The bishop; his wife, minister Zelda White; pastor Titus McGhie and three others -- Avril Murray, Evelyn Ferguson and Elaine Reid --died at the crash scene in Woodbury, about 55 miles north of New York City, state police said. Eight others were hurt.

All eight remained hospitalized at midday Sunday, state police Trooper Brian Kieckhafer said.

Bishop White founded the church in 1998 with about 20 members, including his family, according to the church's website. He later helped establish affiliate congregations in Schenectady and elsewhere in the state.

He and Zelda White had eight children, the site said.

All victims were thought to be residents of the Bronx, police said. State police said the group was traveling for a church event near Schenectady, where the Joy Fellowship has an affiliated congregation.

Bishop White established the congregation in 1998, with about 20 members including his family, according to the church's website.

Besides its sister congregation in Schenectady, he helped established affiliate churches in Mount Vernon and Newburgh.

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