Authorities in Missouri say they will file charges in a car crash last weekend that left a 19-year-old woman critically injured, and the world wondering about the identity of the "angel" priest who prayed with her until rescuers could free her from the mangled wreck -- and then disappeared.
Officials are still scratching their heads over the cleric, who 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.
Ralls County Prosecuting Attorney Rodney Rodenbaugh said he anticipates charges will be filed against Aaron Smith, 26, who crashed his car at 9 a.m. Sunday morning into an oncoming car driven by 19-year-old Katie Lentz of Quincy, Mo., KHQA reports.
Lentz remains at Blessing Hospital, where she was treated for multiple fractures and serious internal injuries.
The crash went global after reports of the mysterious priest who stepped forward when Lentz asked someone to pray with her while firefighters struggled to free her from the wreckage.
“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.
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 Katie and her rescuers with oil, prayed with them and asked them to remain calm.
At that point the Hannibal fire department pulled up with fresh equipment and was able to free Katie. 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.
The Diocese of Jefferson City says it has not located the priest involved. “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.” said Deacon Dan Joyce.