April 15 2021
10:15 AM
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Local Oregon News

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Two Killed, Fourteen Injured In Freeway Van Crash
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Story by by Larry Fitzpatrick - The Oregon Herald
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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 Pepper, 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.