It is 12:00am... I am trying to sit here to compose my thoughts, knowing that there are so many praying and waiting for information. I just returned from a all night candle vigil for the 3 girls who died and their families. It was heart-breaking. This may be a bit disjointed, bear with me...
12 of our jovenes (youth) and 4 chaperones left yesterday morning for a 3 day trip to a camp about a 7 hour drive from Cochabamba. They are all on winter break and wanted to take advantage of the holiday. They contracted a bus from a local bus company that makes the trip regularly rather than taking the usual night time bus. After driving the road on our vacation last week, Josh felt it was safer to travel in the day. Yesterday about 4pm, we started recieving disjointed calls and information about a serious accident that had occured. Things were pretty sketchy until I recieved a call from Josh. He confirmed that the bus had rolled about 100 meters down a steep mountain. The top came off, it rolled over and over several times, some were thrown from the bus, others rolled down with the bus. Miraculously, one of the jovenes who wasn't badly injured was able to climb up to the road and hailed a taxi that was passing by. The taxi driver had a cell phone and reception (extremely unusual where they were at.) Within minutes people from a nearby village had arrived to help evacuate the injured. Half the group was taken to a nearby local clinic. The rest were loaded into pickups and ambulances and started back to Cochabamba. A Christian couple who was passing by took charge of collecting all the personal items and safe guarding them.
The last 48 hours have been crazy: little sleep, going from one clinic to another to check on the injured, back and forth from the house to check on the kids. The first group of injured arrived here around 8 pm last night; another group arrived around midnight, and the rest came in several hours later. My teammate, Katie, has been here with the kids, which has been a life-saver. I want to give you all status updates on how everyone stands at this moment, at least from what I know.
Joshua- He's got 3 cracked ribs and some heavy brusing and contusions. Should be released tomorrow. He's pretty heavy-hearted about everything.
Jonathan Sandoval (son of our teammates)- Lots of contusions and brusing. A compressed vertebrae in his spinal column. They were talking about doing surgery tomorrow, but are now thinking it might be unnecessary and are going to run more tests. Please pray that surgery will not be necessary and that if it is, he will be in capable hands.
Rachel Sandoval (wife of Jonathan)- cuts on the face and some bruising. She was a trooper through it all! Sat with 3 of the girls after the accident and sang "Jesu Cristo conmigo va" to help calm them down.
Miguel Vargas (father of one of our jovenes who died) - in a coma in intensive care due to head injuries, but stable. Postive outlook on his condition. Does not yet know about his daughter who passed away.
Belen - Passed away. Daughter of Miguel, one of our church members. She was 14. She was caught under the wheel of the bus. Joshua was able to scoot down the mountain and sit with her until help came. She had such a servant heart and will be greatly missed by her family and all the jovenes.
Diana - Passed away. Belen's cousin. She was 17, a beautiful, talented young lady. Her family has been coming to church for the last few months.
Ariel - Diana's brother. He had surgery today on his hips/legs, but is in stable condition and recovering nicely.
Ariana - Passsed away. Daugther of Wendy and Gonzalo, church members. Lovely young lady, wonderful big sister.
Bruno Vargas - Broken collar bone, and other fractures. Recovering nicely.
Freddy Vargas - Broken arm. Was one of the last group to be brought in and is pretty shook up, but is recovering.
Bruno Pol - Minor bruising/contusions. He's the one who climbed up to the road for help. Joshua said he was so mature and brave - helped so much in all the rescue operations.
Kevin - cousin of Bruno and Freddy. Some broken bones, but recovering nicely.
Rebeca Chavez - was critically injured. A broken femur bone in several places. The leg was operated on today successfully. Broken hand as well and a broken rib that punctured her thorax. She'll have a couple more operations in the following days. She is in intensive care, but stable and with hopes of a full recovery.
Camilla - Daugther of a church member who is working in Virginia. Facial injuries and contusions. She was operated on today and pulled through nicely. Her mom is flying in from the US.
Alejandra Moscoso - injured neck/collar bone, gash in her arm. Recovering nicely.
Rosa - daughter of a family that has been coming to church for the last few weeks. Minor injuries/contusiones. Recovering nicely.
We are heavy hearted over our losses - many of our families are discouraged, worried, and grieving. But it was heart-warming to see the overwhelming support from the rest of our church. Many waited last night in the cold night air outside the hospital until past 4 am. Others manned the contact center and answered the many phone calls. Still others made the long drive out to the crash site with blankets to help bring back injured. Today every hospital waiting room was filled with our church members, there to encourage and pray.
And more than anything, we feel the encouragement of the many prayers from a far. Thank you - please continue to lift up our church, our youth, their families before the throne. The memorial service and burial for the girls is tomorrow at 3pm. And after that there will be weeks and years of trauma and grief to deal with. But God is with us. And we are thankful for the lives of those who survived and give thanks to God for the way He is taking care of them. Those who were involved in the rescue attempt were amazed that there were not more serious injuries. And I for one am so grateful to have my husband safe and well.
As far as the crash goes.... They were on a flat stretch of road with no oncoming traffic. Observers from the little village nearby said the bus was going too fast. Some reporters from our local newspaer discovered today that the driver, contracted by the bus company, did not have the necessary license to drive a commercial vehicle, and due to driving the course the day before, may not have had enough sleep. Both the driver and the assistant survived. We don't have any more information on them at this time. Keep them in your prayers as well.
Again, we are thankful for the many prayers and support. Roland and Carol Bowen, memeber of our sponsoring congregation, are flying in tomorrow to be of help and support. Jeff Forbess, who was in the US for his sister's wedding, is cutting his visit short and coming back tomorrow as well. Erik Reyes, our brother-in-law in Sucre, is bringing a group from the church tonight to help out. The Bulls have set up a website http://cochabambayouthgroup.blogspot.com/ if you should wish to help in a finacial way. Many of our familes don't have the means to pay for medical/funeral expenses. Your help would be greatly appreciated in this way as well.
It is time for this tired body running on a little less than 4 hours of sleep since yesterday and a cup of coffee to retire. We love and appreciate all of you!
Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13
But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior... Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.... “You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?”
Isaiah 43:1-3, 7, 10-13