The victims of a church bus crash Sunday in Lauderdale County are dealing with the grief of losing a friend and trying to recover from physical injuries.
The young man who died was 14-year-old Brandon Ugarte. There were injuries of varying degrees for the other 22 people on the bus. It was headed to youth camp in Macon, Georgia. Six people remained hospitalized Monday.
"It will be a slow healing process," said the Rev. Greg Hunt, pastor of First Baptist Church of Shreveport.
He said the church is in desperate need of prayer for Maggie Lee Henson, one of the girls at the University Medical Center and the daughter of the associate pastor. Henson suffered severe head trauma. The pastor says family and friends are trying to cope.
"We are showing our love for them," said Hunt.
Hunt said word of the tragic bus accident came moments before the Sunday morning worship service began and members immediately turned to God in prayer.
"It was a powerful display of the concern, the love, the faith," Hunt said.
And Pastor Hunt says prayer is what they will need to pull them through. He added that the rapid response of crews like the Toomsuba-Alamucha Volunteer Fire Department made a difference.
"A minute or two after it was called in, we were there," said Chief Billy Stuckey.
And a 2101st Transportation Company of the Alabama National Guard also made an heroic rescue.
"They lifted the bus, which was on its side," said Stuckey. "There were two trapped underneath. There were many others in the bus that could have not gotten out. And there are those alive today because of how effectively they acted on the spot, on the gun."
The pastor says as they start the path to recovery, they are asking for your prayers. Hunt couldn't hold back the emotion as he reflected on the overwhelming expressions of love from Meridian residents.
"People of your community showed up and we are grateful," said Rev. Hunt. "We are grateful, beyond imagination."