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Regional & National

1 teen dead, others hurt in Tennessee church van wreck

July 28th, 2011 4:02 pm by TRAVIS LOLLER

WAVERLY (AP) — A Middle Tennessee church van returning from a youth outing overturned on an Interstate 40 off-ramp Thursday morning about 55 miles west of Nashville, killing a teenage girl and injuring several others.

Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers said the youths had attended an overnight "lock-in" at a church in Munford, Tenn., where youngsters traditionally stay up all night, and were investigating the possibility that the driver fell asleep.

Troopers said the gray van landed on its top, which was crushed. Scattered in the grass were backpacks, water bottles and a first aid kit, among other debris.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Chad Smith said the van belongs to the Destiny Church in Columbia. No other vehicles were involved in the crash about 9:40 a.m. on the interstate exit for Tenn. 13 near Waverly.

Outside the church in downtown Columbia, trooper Bruce Gildersleeve identified the dead girl as MacKenzie Turner, 14.

"They are a special group of kids," church board member Bradd Kimes said.

Smith said there were 12 people, including the driver, aboard the van when it ran off the ramp and then overturned. The driver was not immediately identified.

Three children, two girls and a boy, were flown by helicopter to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville. Spokeswoman Ashley Culver said later Thursday morning that all had been upgraded from critical condition to stable condition. The types of injuries they received were not revealed. Culver said one of the patients was 11 years old and another 15 years old. The age of the third patient wasn't immediately available.

The closest hospital to the crash site is Three Rivers Hospital in Waverly, where administrative assistant Jean Burns confirmed people injured in the crash were brought. Burns could not disclose additional information.

Kimes said the youths had been on a trip to the Memphis area where they spent the night. Munford is just north of Memphis.

"We're sad. Really at this point ... we just ask that you pray for us and these parents that are dealing with this," he said.

It was the second fatal wreck in the past month involving a teenager who attends the church. Seventeen-year-old Sarah Graham was killed June 29 in Mount Pleasant, Tenn., in a crash with a tractor-trailer.

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 in a storefront-type structure in downtown Columbia. The church's website says it now serves dozens of families.


Associated Press writer Lucas L. Johnson II contributed to this from Columbia.

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