WOODBURY, N.Y. (1010 WINS/CBS 2/AP) — A passenger van carrying members of a church flipped over on the New York State Thruway on Saturday, killing at least six people and injuring eight others, authorities said.
Fourteen people were in the van when it crashed on the northbound side of Interstate 87 in Woodbury, about 55 miles north of New York City, at about 3 p.m., state police and the Thruway Authority said. It appeared to be a single-vehicle crash.
“It 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.
Six of the passengers were dead at the scene. Four were flown to a hospital, while four others were taken by ambulance.
1010 WINS has learned that van was carrying fourteen members of the Joy Fellowship Christian Assembly Church in the Bronx, including the bishop of the congregation and the associate pastor.
Traffic was backed up for miles on I-87 after the accident, but there was heavy traffic of a different kind inside the Baychester church.
Relatives and congregation members crowded the place of worship with heavy hearts, leaning on each other during a time of unbearable anguish.
“Pray for the congregation, pray for the family,” Baychester resident Lorna Reid said. “We’re not sure what’s happening, who’s passed, we just ask that everyone pray.”
“It’s devastating, because it’s people you see every day,” church member Dawn Edwards said. “It’s ordinary people you see every day.”
The church members left the Bronx and were heading to a banquet upstate organized by their sister church, the First Light Christian Assembly.
People at the banquet said the party went on as planned, and they did not realize the extent of the accident. Some said they had known there had been an accident because there were 14 empty seats at the banquet, but didn’t know there had been fatalities.
The injured were taken to either Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern or Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla.
Meyers said he could not release the passengers’ identities because their relatives had not been notified. He said the van was registered to a church in lower Westchester County. He also declined to identify the church pending notification of families. The driver survived and was being interviewed, he said.
Deborah Marshall, a spokeswoman for Good Samaritan Hospital in Suffern, said four women were admitted there. One was in critical but stable condition, while another was in critical but unstable condition, Marshall said. That patient was transported to Jacobi Medical Center in New York City. Two other patients were being assessed.
A spokesman at Westchester Medical Center said he could not immediately provide information on the patients’ conditions.
After northbound lane closures between Exit 16 (Harriman/Route 17) and Exit 17 (Newburgh/I-84/Route 17K) for hours, the New York State Thruway Authority announced Saturday night that all lanes on I-87 were reopened.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)