NEW LONDON, Mo. — Those who were at the scene of a critical accident last Sunday morning heard a prayer that seemed to save a 19-year-old girl's life.
Katie Lentz, a sophomore at Tulane University, was driving Sunday morning to Jefferson City, Mo., where she has a summer internship and was hoping to make it in time to go to church with some friends. But according to police reports, Lentz's Mercedes collided with another car, causing the teen's car to flip on its side, trapping her in crushed metal.
Rescue workers quickly arrived, blocking off the desolate highway two miles in each direction, and began to try and peel back the twisted metal from around Lentz's body. Forty-five minutes into the rescue, emergency workers were still unable to free Lentz, and were concerned because her vital signs continued to fail, USA Today reported.
Those at the scene decided it was necessary to flip the car from laying on the driver's side back on its tires in order to reach the teen, although such movement could dramatically change the pressure on her body and leave her fighting for breath, USA Today said.
Lentz, very much still vocal throughout the process, asked for someone to pray for her first. After the teen's plea for spiritual help, out of nowhere a priest appeared and told the young girl he would pray with her.
The unidentified man was described as having silver hair, "dressed in black pants, black shirt and black collar with a priestly white insert," according to the Washington Times.
Community members and rescue workers knelt down as the priest stood above them and approached the young girl.
Raymond Reed, the fire chief of New London, described what then took place.
"This priest approached Katie and began to pray openly with her," Reed said. "He had a bottle of anointing oil with him and he used that."
As a member of a small town, Reed said that there was only one Catholic church within three towns, and the unknown man was not their priest. But assuming he was traveling on his way to his own parish, Reed and the others watched as he prayed before the rescuers quickly resumed their efforts.
The workers were able to pull the car upright and Lentz's vital signs began to improve. USA Today also reported that a neighboring community rescue team also appeared with fresh equipment and was able to help remove the teen from her car.
As soon as Lentz was removed and readied for transport to a hospital, community members and rescue workers turned to find the priest who had moments before prayed with the young girl, but he was already gone. Many have tried to identify the man, yet he is nowhere to be found in the 69 photographs that were taken throughout the rescue.
"I think it's a miracle," Reed told KHQA. "I would say whether it was an angel that was sent to us in the form of a priest or a priest that became our angel, I don't know. Either way, I'm good with it."
The young girl's mother, Carla Churchill Lentz, agrees.
"I do believe he certainly could have been an angel dressed in priest's attire because the Bible tells us there are angels among us," Carla Churchill Lentz told USA Today. She expressed that workers described to her that there is no way her daughter should have survived such a mangled car.
The mother recently said on her Facebook page that her daughter's condition has been moved from critical to serious and that she was doing well despite suffering two broken femurs, a broken tibia and fibia, broken left wrist, nine broken ribs, a lacerated liver, ruptured spleen and bruised lung.
"She sustained a lot of injuries, however, her face is beautiful, her teeth are perfect, she is sunshine, and everyone who's contacted us — those emergency personnel, the Missouri State Patrol, the deputies, the firemen —they are all saying the same thing, she never cried, she never screamed, she would just say 'pray for me and pray out loud,’ ” Carla Churchill Lentz said.
Police reports from the accident said that a 26-year-old male in the other car was arrested Sunday for failure to drive on the right half of the roadway and second-degree felony assault. USA Today reported that he was treated and released from the local hospital.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company