Workers’ lives spared in church building collapse
September 6, 2005
SENECA – Two men were injured Aug. 24 when they fell from the top of the uncompleted new sanctuary of Hart Baptist Church, Seneca. The structure collapsed when decking that was being shifted from a loader fell on some trusses.
Randy Wetzel, chairman of the deacons, Hart Baptist Church, and Dave Chisholm, a volunteer construction worker from Yazoo City, Miss., were treated and released from Freeman West Hospital in Joplin over the last weekend in August, according to John Rose, pastor, Hart Baptist Church.
“It was just a miracle of God that somebody wasn’t killed,” Rose said.
Both men were working on the roof and managed to ride the collapsing building to the ground, observers said. Chisholm suffered back and hip injuries but was able to return home Aug. 27, Rose said. Wetzel suffered a dislocated shoulder, broken collarbone and bruised lung in the fall, Rose said. He was released from the hospital Aug. 26 and was in church two days later.
Tommy Blair, director of missions, Shoal Creek Baptist Association, Neosho, was on the ground floor of the sanctuary at the time of the accident with his wife, Karen. Both escaped the flying debris.
“We weren’t 10 feet from where it came down, and God blessed us with no injuries,” Tommy Blair said.
Rose was out of town at the time of the collapse and rushed to the hospital to be with the injured men.
“I was about 100 miles north of Kansas City on my way back from the Mayo Clinic when I got the news,” he said. “Of course, the first thing that entered my mind was, ‘Lord, give me a message for Sunday morning.’ I just went straight to the hospital.
“The message I preached (on Sunday) was, ‘We can’t quit.’ This did not dampen the spirit of the people at all. In fact, it might have done more good than it did harm.”
Chisholm was one of about 12-15 Southern Baptist volunteer construction workers from Mississippi and Oklahoma who came to Seneca to build the sanctuary. Some received cuts, scrapes and bruises from the incident and were taken to the hospital where they were treated and released the day of the accident.
Rose said Hart Baptist Church, a congregation of about 125 located five miles outside of Seneca, still plans to build the new sanctuary. Plans were being made just before Labor Day for another group of volunteers, from Texas, to do the work in time for it to open by Thanksgiving.