Three members of local church killed in five-vehicle accident
The congregation of the Lighthouse of Jesus Christ Church located on Johnson Road are trying to come to grips with a tragedy that claimed the lives of three of their members Wednesday night.
A group from the church was headed to a revival service at Miracle Revival Center in Russellville, near St. Stephen at about 7:30 p.m. when they were involved in a five vehicle accident on Highway 17 A near Jamestown.
Three of the four who died were members of the Georgetown church, said Berkeley County Coroner Bill Salisbury.
Late Thursday morning he identified them as 55-year-old Edith Jackson and 45-year-old Angie Arthur, both of Georgetown and Melvira Johnson, age unknown, of Loris.
The S.C. Highway Patrol’s Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team was busy Thursday trying to recreate the accident to determine what happened.
According to Lighthouse Pastor Bishop Floyd Knowlin, who was supposed to be the minister at the revival service, there were ten people — including himself — in the church van. It was pulling a utility trailer with music equipment for the service. Behind the van and trailer was an SUV carrying the three deceased victims and Deacon Johnny Arthur, the husband of Angie Arthur.
Mr. Arthur was transported to the Medical University of South Carolina where, according to Knowlin, he was in critical condition Thursday afternoon.
Knowlin said a man in a Ford Fiesta was driving in the opposite direction and was attempting to pass two vehicles. He struck the utility trailer containing musical equipment and then hit the SUV which ran into the woods and caught on fire.
The man in the Ford was ejected and also died. He has been identified as 36-year-old Steven Morse of Jamestown.
He had three dogs in his vehicle. One of the dogs was found dead. The other two dogs are still missing.
According to the Charleston Post and Courier, one of five vehicles spun in front of Gene Grissitte’s home and landed in a ditch that lines his front yard. A man appeared to have been thrown from the vehicle and landed on his property.
The vehicle’s battery, which also ejected, still lay in his yard Thursday morning.
Grissitte said he saw another body covered with a sheet across the street from his home.
“A lot went through my mind when I saw that,” Grissitte said. “I’m sorry for all those people who lost their lives.”
He said authorities blocked off the road until about 2:30 a.m. Thursday to clear the scene.
Debra Brown, who is a neighbor of Grissitte’s, said she came across the wreckage as she was coming home from Bible study Wednesday night. She saw the body in her neighbor’s yard, and saw a burning car containing three bodies. She turned around before authorities could remove them from the vehicle. “I didn’t want to see that.”
Brown headed back to nearby Jerusalem Baptist Church. She said the church opened its doors to grieving family members for two hours Wednesday night.
Church members offered the families kind words as they sat in shock, wiping tears.
She said the church did anything they could to help.
But mostly, she said, it was the families who comforted each other.
They loved their church
Knowlin said all three women were part of the church choir and were planning to be part of Wednesday night’s service in Russellville.
He said Johnson was known as the “Patti LaBelle” of the church because of her singing voice. He said she was engaged and was supposed to get married in early 2013.
Melvira Johnson was part of the Theatre of the Republic in Conway for 15 years.
Angie Arthur was not only a member of the Lighthouse, she was co-chair of the church deaconess board, Knowlin said.
She was the head cook at Aunny’s Country Kitchen on Front Street, a job she has held for the past two years.
Owner Andrea Johnson said Arthur was hired “on the spot” when she applied for the job.
“My spirit agreed with her spirit,” Johnson said. “She was a dedicated employee.”
Johnson said she was always comfortable leaving the business in Arthur’s hands when she was out of town.
She said Arthur was a hit with the regular customers because she almost always knew what they wanted even before they ordered.
Andrea Johnson said Arthur was planning to spend Thanksgiving at the restaurant serving free meals to those in need, something she did last year.
Knowlin said a memorial service will be held for the three victims. He said the service will likely take place sometime next week.
The Georgetown Times will post any updates on this story on its Website — www.gtowntimes.com.
By Scott Harper
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