Youth group relies on faith to cope with grief of losing local teens

Kevin Farr,
The Bryan County News
Photos, candles, flowers and a soccer ball are among the items at a makeshift memorial for four Durant High School students who were killed in a car crash May 24 near the intersection of West Main Street and Radio Road.

The Durant community continues to mourn the loss of four local teenagers who were killed in an automobile accident Memorial Day weekend.

Durant High School students Kaleb Foster, Fernando Flores, Hunter Ford and Jack Sarver were also friends together in the Fusion Bible Church youth group and hung out together on a regular basis.

Fusion student minister Jordan Gregory knew each of the young men, and spiritually and emotionally bonded with them during regular youth group meetings.

According to eyewitness reports, late in the evening on May 24, the 2003 Ford Escape SUV in which the teens were riding was stopped at a traffic light at the intersection of West Main Street and Radio Road when it was struck from behind by a 2010 Toyota Tundra pick up going at a high rate of speed.

The teens’ car was knocked past the intersection, through the median, across the eastbound lanes of traffic and onto the service road below, roughly 200 feet from where the initial impact occurred.

Two of the youths died at the scene and two others were flown to hospitals in Texas, where they later died.

The driver of the vehicle that struck the teens, Bradley Shawn Pittman of Atoka, was arrested immediately after being released from the hospital by police in Plano, Texas, and booked into the Collin County Jail. On May 27, he was charged with four counts of second-degree murder.

According to an affidavit in the case, at the time of the accident Pittman had been driving at speeds in excess of the legal limit and his blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit. His criminal record includes four previous Driving Under the Influence convictions.

Gregory, of Fusion Bible, knows the loss of the teens is taking a toll on the other youth group members in addition to the immediate families involved.

“Those four were some of the happiest boys I have ever met,” Gregory commented. “They were such a joyful presence when they walked into the church every Wednesday night. It was awesome to get to know them, and I know they believed in the Lord and would want everyone to join in that.

“Right now we are doing our best to support all our kids in the grieving process. We are helping and praying for them and guiding them through a difficult time. This thing has had an emotional impact on everyone - the whole community. The work is not stopping when the funerals are over. We’ve shifted our summer plans because of this, but know the Lord is good and going to work in the other kids’ lives in the healing process.”

Gregory added that Fusion Bible is planning a memorial celebration of the lives of the four young men to be held at a time and date to be determined after their funerals are completed.

“We have been in close communication with all the families and will continue to love on those families,” he said. “We are joining the community in supporting those things already started in order to get more traction for all the things local citizens have going to comfort those families.

“This is definitely the toughest thing I have had to deal with in the ministry, but also the most growing thing. As James 1 says, we will strive to continue growing in our faith while continuing to mourn alongside each other. I feel like in the long run, there will be an even stronger bond in all the kids in the community after this and even more so in our youth group.”

Funeral services for each of the youths were scheduled to begin this week at various locations in the Durant area.

More than $68,000 in cash donations was received last week in GoFundMe accounts and residents can also donate locally to one account at First United Bank in which the funds will be donated evenly.

Donations can be made at any of the First United locations to the Benefit for Hunter, Caleb, Jack & Fernando fund. The account number is 4861485.

Balloons, candles and flowers are part of the memorial near West Main Street and Radio Road in honor of four Durant High School students who were killed when an alleged drunk driver slammed into the vehicle in which they were riding. [Kevin Farr / For the Bryan County News]