Reporting Rochelle Ritchie
VANDALIA, Ill. (WJZ) — Five people are dead, six others hurt after their church van crashes on an Illinois highway. All five who died are from Baltimore.
Rochelle Ritchie has more on the accident, and the local victims.
Investigators say the person driving that vehicle should have never been behind the wheel.
Shattered windows and a twisted body frame are all that remain of a church van that rolled over so violently nine people were ejected on an Illinois interstate.
“We had four patients arrive at Fayette County Hospital after a van roll over on I-70 eastbound,” said hospital spokeswoman Lyn Gartke.
Eleven people were on board the 15-passenger van. Six were injured while five men, all from Baltimore, were killed.
“It was just a shock to me. I couldn’t believe it,” said Mike Fleming.
According to an Illinois coroner, the men who died are members of Victory Outreach Church on Chester Street in East Baltimore. They were returning from a religious event in California.
Those who died: 54-year-old Emerson Baldwin, 53-year-old Andrew Canada, 42-year-old Antonie Mitchelle, 52-year-old Mark William and 29-year-old Thomas Coleman.
It isn’t hard finding people in that East Baltimore neighborhood who knew one of the victims who was killed: Emerson Baldwin.
“It was a hurting feeling to me cause he was a personal friend of mine. I had just talked to him about two days before,” said Rinny Dixon.
“Disbelief. Still is. I’ve come to terms with it, but right now it’s kind of hard to swallow,” said Fleming.
The driver of the van, who survived, remains anonymous. But Illinois state troopers found he was driving on a suspended license and should have never been behind the wheel.
Friends say they are saddened by the news, but are comforted in knowing the men were on a religious mission to get their lives back on track.
“He’s in heaven, basically. I really believe that,” Fleming said.
The driver of that van was not only ticketed for driving on a suspended license, but also an improper lane change.
Investigators are still trying to determine why the vehicle ran off the road.