Members of the Shiloh Baptist Church choir in Blackstone, Virginia, had just arrived in front of another church some 32 km away to hold a resuscitation meeting on Tuesday. But they would not sing that night.
Just as the choir car turned into the parking lot of Mount Zion Baptist Church, a truck dragged a trailer full of metal into the vehicle, killing four people and injuring seven others. The Virginia State Police said:
Lafayette Dickens, a member of the chorus who revived his own car, arrived in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, shortly after the accident.
When he got there, the police had cordoned off the area and rescue workers were busy removing the victims from the area. The van lying on its side said Mr. Dickens. He watched as rescue workers pulled people out of the wreckage, strapping them on trolleys and taking them to ambulances and helicopters.
"It was pretty bad," Mr. Dickens said. "I was just trying to reassure people who lost their loved ones when we found out who they are."
"We were there about a year ago," he said of Mount Zion. "It's normal for rural churches to get back on their feet."
William D. Coleburn, the mayor of Blackstone, said the town of about 3,600 was destroyed by the crash on the ground. "Everyone down here in Southside Virginia knows everyone," he said.
"The people we lost and the people who got hurt were the cream of the crop," Mr. Coleburn said. "Good God-fearing people who left their church here in Blackstone on Tuesday night and walked down the street 32 kilometers to pass the good word on to another church."
There were 11 people in the van when it was beaten at 6 o'clock : 54 clock Tuesday, said the Virginia State Police. They said the van had overturned several times as the truck pulled off the road and crashed into the guardrail.
The police said the crash occurred on Route 460, a road with a dotted-line average and two lanes of traffic moving in each direction. It's the closest thing the area had to an expressway, said Mr. Coleburn, who described it as "the good old interstate boy."
The police identified the deceased on Wednesday as James Farley, 87; Wartena Somerville, 36; Delois Williams, 72; and Constance Wynn, 85.
Mr. Dickens and Mr. Coleburn said: Mr. Farley was a former groundskeeper of Shiloh Baptist Church; Ms. Somerville was a local school teacher with a 9-month-old daughter; Mrs. Williams was the chairman of the Council of Deacons of the Church. and Ms. Wynn spent more than two decades on the City Council.
"They were all good people," said Mr. Dickens, who also serves as a deacon in the church. "Today we give everything we can. It is surreal.
The driver of the truck, Robert Lee Allen, 47, of Norfolk, Virginia, was taken to a nearby hospital for minor injuries, the police said. Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the state police, said an investigation into the crash was underway.
Four of the injured victims were transported to Richmond Medical Center at Virginia Commonwealth University after the crash, according to a spokesperson, Pat Kane. Three more were brought to nearby hospitals, police said.
Kane said he had no information on two of the patients on Wednesday, but the other two remained in critical condition.
Shiloh Baptist Church played an influential role in the civil rights movement, Coleburn said.
"While in the darker days of Blackstone, when blacks had no representation and no representation, black leaders met in this church," he said. "They used to call it the headquarters of the Holy Spirit because they were doing God's work and trying to have an equal voice."
The Church served as the nerve center for proxy holders who challenged the entire Virginia electoral system tends to favor white voters and candidates over blacks, Coleburn said. A US Supreme Court ruling by Robert R. Merhige Jr. in 1986, a supporter of racial segregation, suspended these systems in Blackstone and other nearby cities.
"The church has always been a historic part of the city and significant citizens have come out," said Dickens. "It's a very significant church in the area, especially in the black community."
Mr. Dickens drove home from work at Mount Zion Baptist Church when he phoned a reporter on Wednesday evening.
"Every day I travel on this road," he said. "I have just passed the church where everything happened. You have a revival tonight in progress. It's all so tragic. "