Miraculously no one was injured when a Penske rental truck struck an awning on the front of Blessed Hope Baptist Church, bringing the awning down on top of the vehicle, and partially crushing the roof on the cab of the truck early Friday afternoon.
“By the grace of God she is alive,” Whitley County Sheriff Todd Shelley noted about the driver. He was one of two officers investigating the crash.
The single vehicle crash happened about 1:06 p.m. when the rental truck, which was driven by Durenda Howard, 42, struck the awning on the church, which is located off Ky. 26 about one mile from the northern most railroad crossing.
“She just said she pulled in the parking lot here. She was going to meet her friend that lives across the road. She just pulled up and thought she had room, and didn’t,” said Chief Deputy Tim Baker.
Rockhold Volunteer Fire Department Chief Charles Walker said that no extrication was required, and the driver was eventually able to get out through a window in the truck. There were no passengers.
Officials at the scene said that they didn’t know what the dollar figure would be on the damage, but speculated that just the awning alone may cost $30,000 or more to replace, not including damage done to the church itself.
The church had visible damage where the awning had been ripped away from the building, in addition to a small hole in the front wall, which had loose bricks around it.
Walker said that he had never seen anything quite like this before.
“It’s a first,” he noted.
Baker added that he has never worked a wreck quite like this either.
No drug or alcohol involvement is suspected, Baker said.
Bolton’s Towing assisted at the scene using a large truck with a small crane-like device attached to it to help lift the awning off the truck so emergency officials could move the vehicle.
Officials looped support straps all the way around the awning, and ended up chopping a small hole through the roof so that they could attach a chain, which connected the support straps. A hook from the back of the truck was lowered and secured to the chain, and the awning was lifted a few feet as Walker stood on top of the awning to help guide the process.
Walker was then able to crawl into the vehicle leaning almost sideways, and steered the truck as it rolled back to a safe distance from the church building.
Officials were then able lower the awning to the ground and move it to the side enough so that people would be able to use the front door of the church Sunday morning.
Emergency officials cleared the accident scene about 4 p.m. Friday.