4 Killed in Crash of Louisiana Church Van

June 24, 2011

Four people were killed, including two children, and seven were hospitalized after a church van veered off a northeast Louisiana highway and struck a culvert.

Trooper Mark Dennis said Thursday that a 4-year-old and a 12-year-old were among those killed in the Wednesday night accident on La. Highway 587 in West Carroll Parish.

Portia Thornton, 53, Kaitlyn Thornton, 19, Brittany Thornton, 12, and 4-year-old Emma Adams were all pronounced dead at the scene by the West Carroll Parish Coroner’s Office.

The van belonged to the New Zion Baptist Church, which is about eight miles outside Oak Grove, according to West Carroll Parish Sheriff’s Department chief deputy Kenneth Green.

“It’s just a little country church, said Green. “They were taking people home from Bible school at the church.”

Dennis said the van’s driver, 30-year-old Joey W. McKan of Oak Grove, was one of two people hospitalized with “life threatening” injuries and was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Monroe.

Jake Thornton, 20, Aaron Coats, 21, two sixteen-year-olds, and another male passenger whose age has not been determined were transported to hospitals from Monroe to Jackson, Miss.

The accident remains under investigation.

“There was no apparent cause,” Dennis said. “No indication of excessive speed.”

Impairment was not suspected in the crash, but routine toxicology tests were pending, Dennis said.

There are about 11,000 people in West Carroll Parish, sheriff Jerry Philley said, about 2,500 in Oak Grove.

“It’s flat like most of the delta,” Philley said. “The road was straight where it happened.”

Someone who heard the crash called it in at 7:17 p.m., Philley said.

“It was a 15-passenger church van,” he said. “It was traveling east and just left the road and went in the ditch.”

The van did not flip over, but rotated on its tires in the ditch, and hit a culvert, the sheriff said. Some of the passengers were ejected, he said.

Calls to the church were unanswered Thursday morning and the pastor, Greg Dunn, did not immediately return a call.

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