Published August 10, 2013
An artist has created a sketch of the mysterious "angel priest" who witnesses say appeared at the scene of a Missouri car accident Sunday, anointed and prayed with the teenage victim and then vanished without a trace.
Fox4KC reports Tucson-based artist Randall Sands created the sketch using online face sketch software at facesid.com based on media reports, hoping someone would be able to identify the cleric.
Officials are still scratching their heads over the priest, who they say appeared out of nowhere. Perhaps more mysteriously, the local fire chief said he does not appear in any of 80 photos from the accident scene.
"I think that this time I've actually witnessed a guardian angel at work," Jeremiah See of the New London Fire Department told ABC News.
Family and friends of the victim, 19-year-old Katie Lentz of Quincy, Mo., say they are hoping to find the priest and thank him for making the rescue possible.
"Where did this guy come from?" Lentz's friend Travis Wiseman asked, according to KHQA. "We're looking for the priest and so far, no one has seen him. Whether it was a priest as an angel or an actual angel, he was an angel to all those and to Katie."
Rescuers tell Fox4KC a 26-year-old driver crossed the center lane and hit Lentz' car head-on. Authorities spent about 45 minutes trying to cut her out of the car, but the metal on her older car dulled the equipment.
“The fire chief, Raymond Reed, had stepped back and came up to me and said he was concerned because he was out of options. His tools weren’t working and by that time, it was almost an hour and said I don’t know how we’re going to get her out,” Ralls County Sheriff’s Deputy Richard Adair told KHQA.
At this point, Fox4KC reports Lentz asked the rescuers to pray with her. Then the priest appeared – although the highway was blocked for two to three miles and emergency responders were not letting anyone past the roadblocks.
“He came and he asked to anoint the girl in the car,” Adair said. “My first thought was that it would possibly send the wrong message to Katie that maybe we had called a priest and thought she wasn’t going to make it. So I went back and talked to the priest and told him we were worried she would think we’d given up hope. He said, ‘I just want to anoint her’ and so we just let him come up to the scene.”
Witnesses said he anointed Lentz and her rescuers with oil, prayed with them and asked them to remain calm.
The Hannibal fire department then pulled up with fresh equipment and was able to free Lentz. After getting her in the Air Evac helicopter, rescue workers said the priest was nowhere to be found.
Fire Chief Reed said the department took 80 photos of the scene and the priest did not appear in any of them.
A witness who said she and her husband held Lentz' hand after the accident tells KHQA she remembers the priest well.
"He was dark complected," she said. "He had an accent, but I'm not sure what nationality. He was probably 5 feet 6 inches maybe. He was not heavy set, but he probably weighed close to 200 pounds. He had dark hair."
The Diocese of Jefferson City says it has not located the priest involved and does not plan to search for him.
“Out of respect for the privacy of any priest who may have been involved and does not wish to come forward, the Diocese does not plan to further investigate this incident. The Diocese is grateful that a priest was able to exercise his ministry in this manner and requests prayers for healing of the victim, as well as prayers of thanks.” Deacon Dan Joyce said.
Ralls County Prosecuting Attorney Rodney Rodenbaugh said he anticipates charges will be filed against the driver Aaron Smith, KHQA reports.
Lentz remains at Blessing Hospital in serious condition. She was treated for multiple fractures and serious internal injuries.