Local pastor and wife recovering from deadly Jefferson Co. wreck

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) -- The pastor of Clay Center Wesleyan Church and his wife are recovering and grieving. Two of their friends were killed last Friday in a wreck near Grantville.

The group was traveling to deliver letters to prisoners at the Lansing Correctional Facility when they crashed into a vehicle that pulled out in front of them.

Reverend Rob Stewart and his wife, Barbara, left home at 4:30 a.m. Friday, ready to deliver Christmas joy to prisoners though their monthly ministry.

Barbara sat next to Rene Polson on the van ride, swapping stories about an inmate they both befriended.

“Rene and I were talking about the prisoner we both had written to but she had written to him many, many times,” Barbara said.

Suddenly her husband saw something ahead.

"It came out of nowhere but I saw it coming and I actually pointed out to Gerald,” said Rob. “I said that black car is not stopping."

A car traveling north on Barton Road pulled out in front of their van on Highway 24. They collided and the impact caused the van to lose control and roll seven times, according to authorities.

"I just kind of called out to everybody in the van,” said Rob. “I started with her and she answered me and I was so blessed to hear from her, and then different ones could answer and others could not."

Barbara’s seat mate, Rene of Blue Rapids, and the van driver, Gerald Baxter were killed.

“They are both good friends of ours,” said Rob. “Gerald being a part of our church, he is going to be greatly missed. Rene had been with us on several of these and she was also very positive and caring and giving and we're going to greatly miss them both."

Barbara and Rob say they’re focused on healing their bruises and broken ribs, and mending the hearts of the families of their lost friends.

“They're going to face their first Christmas without those loved ones and in fact the very reason for the trip on Friday was the Christmas season,” Rob said.

The tragedy will not detour their mission. The church is recollecting gifts to make the same trip to Lansing.

"We plan to continue you know until the door seems to close on us you know, this was a bit of a deterrent but it's not a closure of the door,” Rob said.

The driver of the other car, Hannah Stark of Grantville, and her children ages nine and ten, were not hurt.

Barbara, along with another passenger, Martha Hanson, are still in the hospital. We don’t know when they will be released.