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Story by Jim Maxey - The Oregon Herald
Published on Friday November 13, 2009 - 9:44 AM
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BAKER CITY, Oregon - Nearly everyone aboard a van carrying was thrown from the van when it rolled several times on an icy Oregon highway and killed two of 16 Colorado church members. 14 survivors, all young, were injured, some critically. The van ran out of control and rolled on I84 near Baker City in eastern Oregon.

Their church in Federal Heights, Colorado, held a candlelight vigil. 20-year old Joshua John Pischura, of Geneva, Ohio, died shortly after the van crashed and Taune Nicole Winter, 23, of Deer Trail, Colorado, died Thursday afternoon after being flown to a Boise, Idaho hospital, authorities said. Five other passengers with serious or critical injuries were also flown to Boise. Three were taken to a hospital in La Grande, Ore.; and six were treated and released from St. Elizabeth Health Services in Baker City, Oregon State Police said. State police said they believe that at least 13 of those aboard were ejected during the crash. The nine women and seven men were members of the Rocky Mountain Masters Commission, a training program affiliated with the New Life Worship Center, said Christy Gimer, center spokeswoman.

They were on their way to a conference in Portland to earn money working as ushers and doing other tasks. Gimer said about a third of the people in the van were from the Denver area. She said others were from Florida and Utah, and one woman was from Iraq. She declined to provide names or conditions of any of the survivors. She described the New Life Worship Center as a church facility where students live in dorms, take classes and earn their minister's license. She said 10 students stayed behind and didn't make the trip to Oregon. Grief counselors were being provided to those students. "People here are devastated," Gimer said. "They are gathering in the church for prayers. We are going to keep the church open throughout the evening for them." The wreck happened at about 5:20 a.m. when the 2002 Ford van encountered icy conditions on the freeway that links Oregon to Idaho.

The driver, Nicole Elaine Byrd, was wearing a seat belt and suffered non-life-threatening injuries. But 13 of the 16 people aboard are believed to have been ejected, troopers said. Oregon State Police said its investigation is ongoing and it has yet to determine how many passengers were wearing seat belts. The Rev. John Privett of the Baker City Church of the Nazarene said he was putting up seven of the survivors in his home, and that local people had donated food, medicine and clothing. "They are all pretty shook up," Privett said of the survivors. "These guys are grieving and cried all day. "There are broken legs and bones, backs, ankles, elbows," he added.

Lovely dedicated website for Taune Nicole Winter

Taune's Hope is an organization dedicated to carrying on the Love, Caring, Giving, Sharing, Godliness, Compassion and spirit that Taune Winter exemplified and lived for her 23 years on this earth. Her dad Jim and I want to share her story of survival after 2 abortions, the strength and courage that Taune demonstrated by overcomming obstacles in life. Taune was passionate about Pro life issues as an abortion survivor. She spoke before the Colorado House and Senate on the Born alive infant protection act, pregnancy counseling centers. Taune was a living example of what a baby given the chance to survive abortion can become, and contribute to this world and to the lives of others. Since Taune's death November 12th 2009 Her dad and I have built a mission in Haiti named "Taune's Hope", to honor the life of our daughter. We have found a Christian author that will be helping me write and publish Taune's life story into a book this year. With God leading me, I hope to be a spokesperson for Taune's cause and speak at events in the future for the unborn. Keep us in your prayers, and we will keep you posted on news from "Taune's Hope" in the future. Jim and Jodi Winter. - (Dad and Mom)

Lt. Gregg Hastings of the Oregon State Police said Friday it may be several weeks before investigators complete their report on the crash.

The van appeared to be at full capacity with 15 passengers and the driver, but the investigation must be completed to determine how many aboard were wearing seat belts, Hastings said.

The Colorado church group was headed to a business convention in Portland where they planned to work for 10 days to raise money to support their ministry in a Denver suburb.

"It was just routine for us — we travel all over the country to work these trade shows," Nicole Byrd, 25, told the Baker City Herald.

Byrd was driving the van. She and the 15 passengers belong to the Rocky Mountain Masters Commission, a training program affiliated with the New Life Worship Center.

During the nine-month program, students learn about leadership skills and provide free programs for community youth, including dance, music and sports.

"All we do is love on them," Byrd said. "It's a community in need of people to love them. We came from our hometowns to make a difference in the lives of these kids and their families."

By working at trade shows and conventions, the students earn enough money to cover the cost of the community programs, plus tuition and housing.

At St. Elizabeth Health Services in Baker City, where Byrd and six van passengers were treated and released Thursday, staff member Bob Borders called Nazarene Church pastor Jon Privett to get clothes from the Northeast Oregon Compassion Center.

The seven students — still traumatized from the accident — stayed with the Privetts, as did a nurse to help with bandages and medications. On Friday, everyone awakened to a fresh breakfast cooked by members of the community.

Three passengers were listed in serious condition Friday at Saint Alphonsus: Christine Sandra Aki, 18, of Golden, Colo.; Katherine Elizabeth Darlene Pischura, 18, from Geneva; and William Chris Rodgers, 22, of Lakewood, Colo.

Two passengers taken to Grande Ronde Hospital in La Grande, Ore., with non-life-threatening injuries were identified as Lavan Ahmad Sayed, 24, of Louisville, Colo., and Ashley Wenk, 18, whose hometown was not available.

The six passengers treated and released at St. Elizabeth Health Services hospital in Baker City were: DeVries, of Golden, Colo.; Marketa Larie Smith, 26, hometown not available; Brett James Iserman, 20, of Dakota, Ill.; Katherine Elizabeth Coppock, 19, of Cave Creek, Ariz.; Christian Wence, 19, of Ault, Colo.; and Javaar Zakori Howard, 18, of Denver.

Last May, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a summer travel season warning saying that research shows 15-passenger vans have a much higher rollover risk than other passenger vehicles, especially when fully loaded.