WASHINGTON — Police say a pregnant woman lost her unborn child after a fiery crash involving a church van Sunday in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
One child and three adults, including the driver of the pickup truck, were killed Sunday. Police said Monday a pregnant woman in the van had to undergo emergency surgery and lost her unborn child. The woman survived. It is not yet clear how far along the woman was in her pregnancy.
Six children and eight adults were injured, according to Prince George’s County Fire and Rescue spokesman Mark Brady. Of those injured, four children and four adults were in critical condition.
“In my 40 years in the fire service, it’s probably one of the most horrific accident scenes we’ve had to deal with in a very long time,” Brady said.
The incident happened in Hyattsville, at 21st Place and Chillum Road around 5 p.m. Sunday.
An eyewitness said a white pickup truck traveling west on Chillum Road struck a Cadillac, causing the truck’s tire to catch fire. Witnesses described seeing the truck speed away from the crash.
Despite the flaming tire, the pickup truck careened down the road and then struck the church van head-on. Witnesses said that the van caught fire after the crash, but Brady tells the Associated Press that “the fire actually involved the pickup truck” and not the van.
The van is from a Riverdale church, Iglesia Ministerio de Dios Unido, says Scott Peterson, a spokesman for Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker. A church co-pastor says the people in a van were headed from Washington to an evening service in the suburbs.
“People were running down the street pulling people out of the blue van,” said Steve Ramsey, who lives near the site of the crash. “There were a lot of children in the van.”
Brady said the adults in the van were mostly in their 20s and 30s and that the children ranged from 4 to 10 years old.
Sherrie Johnson with Prince George’s County Public Schools says one child, who is in critical condition, is a third-grader at Ridgecrest Elementary School in Hyattsville. The other hospitalized student attends Thomas Stone Elementary School in Mount Rainier. She did not know the second child’s condition or grade.
Emergency crews from neighboring jurisdictions assisted in the response.
Brady said the crash was so bad that firefighters went through a “critical incident” debriefing afterward. “They were met with by counselors to make sure everyone was OK after dealing with an incident involving so many people, so many injuries and fatalities,” he said.
Donald Huff, who lives on the street where the accident took place, said he heard “a loud boom, just like a bomb,” and then saw the flames.
“The fire just got bigger and bigger,” he told The Associated Press by phone.
He said a couple of people ran out on the street with kitchen fire extinguishers “to try to get as close as they could, but it was a little too much.”
He said that when the fire department arrived and brought the blaze under control, he could see them pulling bodies from the van afterward. White smoke billowed from the scene afterward.
Brady said the injured were divided up among several hospitals in the area because of the number of people hurt.
Peterson says the “very young” Iglesia Ministerio de Dios Unido church has a small congregation, and most of the members are Latino. He says the county’s Latino liaison is assisting.
Also, he says the Mexican embassy already has contacted the county to find out if any of the people involved are Mexican nationals.
WTOP’s Dick Uliano and The Associated Press contributed to this report