Did a Texting Driver Kill 13 Christian Seniors?

No life is worth forfeiting — or maiming or destroying — for a text.

Authorities investigate after a deadly crash involving a van carrying church members and a pickup truck on U.S. 83 outside Garner State Park in northern Uvalde County, Texas, Wednesday, March 29, 2017. The group of senior adults from First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas, was returning from a retreat when the crash occurred, a church statement said.

By Michael Brown Published on April 6, 2017

The news of the crash was horrifying enough. Thirteen Christian seniors, most in their 80s, were returning from a three-day retreat when their church bus crashed into a pickup truck. The bus driver, along with 12 of the passengers, died. The truck driver survived.

All 13 victims were members of the same Baptist church. Some of them sang in the choir. They were parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, with deep roots in their community. Now, in a moment of time, they were gone. Can you imagine the trauma this community is experiencing?

But there’s more to the story that adds to the horror.

Pickup Truck Driver’s Texting Cost 13 Lives

According to reliable reports, the pickup truck swerved into oncoming traffic, so the crash was entirely his fault. And an eyewitness who spoke to the driver claims that the reason he swerved was because he was texting.

How deadly texting can be.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was texting.”

The witness, Jody Kuchler, said he was driving back to his home with his girlfriend “when he came across a truck that was driving erratically across the road.”

Kuchler stated, “He kept going off the road and into oncoming traffic and he just kept doing that.”

While following the truck for “at least 15 minutes,” Kuchler called two different sheriff’s offices “and told them ‘they needed to get him off the road before he hit somebody.’”

Kuchler then witnessed the crash, then went to check on both vehicles, finding the pickup truck driver alive: “He said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was texting.’ I said, ‘Son, do you know what you just did?’ He said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’”

A Resolution: No More Texting and Driving

So far the police have not confirmed this report, only saying that they are considering “distracted” driving as a potential cause of the crash. But if in fact Kuchler’s account is correct, the whole story is even more tragic and jarring.

How many times have you and I been distracted while driving because of texts and emails? How many times have we endangered the lives of others, along with our own?

How many times have we endangered the lives of others, along with our own?

I confess that I have been guilty. I have texted or emailed many a time, all the while knowing that I should not be doing it, fully aware that, no matter how careful I tried to be, what I was doing was reckless.

But I am determined to do so no more, and I am writing this article to help reinforce this determination, along with warning others. (I waited a few days to write this to allow things to sink in more deeply and to adjust my habits.)

Texting and driving is not only dangerous. It can be deadly and disfiguring.

Liz Marks: Hear Her Story

On November 2, 2014, the Daily Mail carried this headline: “Popular teen disfigured by wreck after texting at the wheel warns other young drivers how distraction destroyed her life and how her so-called friends abandoned her because she was disabled.”

Liz Marks, now in her 20s, “was left blind in one eye and severely disabled after crashing her car while texting at the wheel” at the age of 17.

We are almost programmed to respond to messages on our phones.

She had been “driving her Mazda 3 along a road in St Michaels, Maryland, when she received a text from her mother, Betty. Without thinking, she looked down at her phone to read the message.”

Again, I wonder: How many times have you and I done the exact same thing? We are almost programmed to respond to messages on our phones.

“Seconds later, she crashed into a tow truck driven by 25-year-old Roy Dixon that was stopped on St Michaels Road waiting to turn left on to Wales Lane. The truck had its left signal turned on.”

She “was airlifted to the University of Baltimore Shock Trauma Center with serious brain and facial injuries, where she remained in intensive care for nearly a month.”

In subsequent weeks, she was forced to undergo a number of surgeries, including an 11-hour procedure on her brain, according to The Star Democrat in Maryland.

Two-and-a-half years on, she remains blind in one eye, has lost her sense of smell, cannot hear properly, is unable to create tears due to damaged tear ducts and cannot fall asleep naturally.

No Life is Worth It

Her before and after pictures are jarring, giving a small glimpse into her sufferings. Adding to her pain, most of her friends left her, moving on with their lives while she remained behind.

All this for a momentary, innocent glance at her phone.

And now, 13 elderly lives have been snuffed out, apparently because a driver just had to text — and text, and text.

May we take all this to heart, not just for ourselves, but for others. No life is worth forfeiting — or maiming or destroying — for a text.

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  • Autrey Windle

    TURN OFF THE PHONE BEFORE YOU GET IN THE CAR! How hard is that? The life you save may be related to you or be you! I live where the only way to get to my house requires me to drive on several undivided 2 lane roads with little to no shoulders available. People text and are on their phones all the time and driving into oncoming traffic or into the ditch and spinning out. That requires that we, who don’t want to use our phones, have to use them to call the sheriff because we have no where to hide from these jerks. I spend half my time some days praying that my elderly neighbors can get 2 blocks to the Walgreens without getting killed by these idiots. Send some of these people to real jail if they live through the mess they cause and maybe people will get the message. Better yet, make every cel phone inoperable anywhere near a running engine.

    • imamazed

      or make it so that no vehicle will start or run while it can detect a cell phone signal inside the vehicle. something has to change, and it probably won’t be the phone addicted people who are driving.

      • Autrey Windle

        I wish I could disagree with you…but I don’t.

      • Sonnys_Mom

        Excellent idea.

  • SophieA

    If you have a phone capable of voice commands and really NEED to send a text, activate Siri or it’s equivalent and use it to be prepared before the NEED arises. It’s just like speaking to a person in the car. Siri will read texts to you and ask if you want to reply. A simple “no” ends the “speaking” texts. It’s not difficult. If this Baby Boomer can do it, then surely any Gen-Xer or Millennial can. If your phone can’t be voice activated, then either turn it off or wait to check it when you reach your destination. So much grief could be spared so many people if we, collectively, considered others and acted responsibly. Besides the life you save may be your own.

    • Autrey Windle

      I have a phone that can text but doesn’t have Siri or anything like that. I suspect a lot of these kids don’t have Siri either. I know where the off button is but I bet these kids don’t even know how to turn their phone off.

      • SophieA

        And people keep hailing this generation as computer/technology savvy. They are almost totally incompetent if they can’t turn off their phones or at least silence it. Even movie theaters expect cell phones to be silenced. You’d think that Millennials would learn how to silence their phones as many movies as they frequent.

        • Wayne Cook

          So agree with you!

      • Wayne Cook

        State Farm requires cell phones owned by their drivers to be equipped with an app so that they report gps and speed. I wish more would do that. This kind of thing happens every morning and afternoon in my work commute!

  • Charles Burge

    I just don’t get it. Are people so addicted to their devices that they find it impossible to ignore them whenever they make a noise? That’s disturbing in itself, and says a lot about the current state of our society.

    • Az1seeit

      You are correct, but this is only the surface. We have become slaves to our conveniences. When one begins looking at what the current culture thinks is necessary, it gives one pause. Since when are humans “entitled” to phones, TV…even health insurance? One could try to argue that these are “needs”. But it is deeply disturbing to look below the surface at how humanity is being sacrificed on the altar of what are essentially simply wants.

  • Jeffrey Wurtz

    On a Sunday afternoon on 13 September 2012 near Eden, WI, my sister and her husband were killed by a drunk driver who was texting. Their adopted teenage daughter was severely injured, but she survived.

    Four points:
    1. Thank you for highlighting the tragedy in your article.
    2. Once again, the murderer escaped relatively unharmed; perhaps that’s part of reaping what he sowed, having to live a life knowing he committed such a tragedy.
    3. Your phrase “their church bus crashed into a pickup truck”is incorrect; it should be
    “the pickup truck crashed into the church bus” because the truck was in the wrong place; from what I can tell the driver of the bus was doing nothing wrong.
    4. I object to the police’s phrase “distracted” driving”; a distraction is something that happens to a driver, not something the driver does; what the driver does is drive inattentively! Let’s state the fact that the driver chose to do something that made him inattentive; phrasing it as “distracted driving” can make it sound as if the poor driver had something “distracting” happen to him, which, obviously is patently false. The driver chose to drive inattentively!!!

    Please keep up your articles; I respect you and your viewpoints.

  • Billy Chickens

    But…but…gee…I read that the 20 year-old truck driver said he was sorry. ….. Which shows how shallow America’s young have become. He kills 13 people while driving and texting…and basically says, “Oops…sorry!”

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