Texas town mourns 13 killed returning from church retreat

Posted at 3:57 PM, Mar 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-30 15:58:26-04

NEW BRAUNFELS, Texas (AP) — The pastor of a Texas church says that the 13 senior adults who were killed in a crash were returning home from a three-day retreat where they’d spent time together in Bible study and fellowship.

“These are individuals we’ve sat next to and had dinner with and laughed with and cried with and worshiped with. They were part of our church family,” said Brad McLean, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in New Braunfels, Texas.

Authorities said Thursday that the church members who died in the Wednesday crash ranged in age from 61 to 87. They were returning home when the small bus they were traveling in and a pickup truck collided head on.

Caroline Deavors was among church members attending the retreat. Deavors, who returned home in her car, told the San Antonio Express-News ( ), “It’s very heart-breaking.”

Among those killed was the bus driver, 67-year-old Murray Barrett, who was a semi-retired middle school math teacher. Twenty-one-year-old Amity Dohoney said he’d taught her 7th and 8th grade math, and they remained close through the church.

Glenn Timmermann said that his “heart just dropped” when he saw that 87-year-old Harold Barber was among those who died. Timmermann came by the church on Thursday to pay his respects because he’d gotten to know Barber about a year ago when Barber led a Bible study at a retirement home.

“He was a fun loving person. He always had a smile. He brought a lot of happiness to my heart in that Bible study,” Timmermann said.

McLean said those who were killed were among a group of 65 people from the church who attended the retreat.

He said that hours after the crash, family members came to the church to cry and grieve together. “Our church family did what church families are supposed to do: Lots of prayer. Lots of support for those families. Lots of crying with those families,” McLean said.

McLean said that some of those who were killed had served in the church’s kitchen on Wednesday nights.

“I think it’s the everyday interaction and relationship that has been built that, boy, those are the things that really will affect us a week from now, a month from now, a year from now,” he said.

“You live life with folks and so you just share so many small interactions that add up to a relationship that impacts you and strengthens your heart,” he said.

A fairly steady stream of people continued to come into the church throughout the day on Thursday, several carrying Bibles as they went in.