In a heart-wrenching turn of events, less than four months after assuming his role as the settled pastor of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ in New Haven, Missouri, the Rev. Dan Smith, 67, lost his life in a devastating accident.
On Friday, September 29, a semi-truck carrying anhydrous ammonia overturned near Teutopolis, Illinois, claiming the lives of five people, including two children.
The church shared the heartbreaking news on their Facebook page, expressing their deep sorrow at the loss of their pastor, Dr. Dan Smith. The accident occurred when the semi-truck transporting anhydrous ammonia overturned, creating a hazardous cloud of anhydrous on the road.
Tragically, Dan Smith was one of five fatalities, leaving behind his son, Micah Smith, his sister, Sande Hardy, and many other grieving family and friends. The church also extended their condolences to the families of the other four lives lost in the accident, as well as those who were injured.
The other victims in the crash were identified as Teutopolis resident Kenneth Bryan, 34, and his two children, Walker Bryan, 10, and Rosie Bryan, 7, along with Vasile Cricovan, 31, of Twinsburg, Ohio, according to The Associated Press.
The National Transportation Safety Board provided details about the tragic incident. The semi-truck was traveling on U.S. 40 when the driver swerved to the right to avoid a collision with another vehicle attempting to overtake it. This maneuver caused the truck to jackknife, leading to an overturn and a collision with a parked vehicle’s trailer hitch. The impact tore a 6-inch hole in the chemical container, resulting in the release of over half of the 7,500 gallons of anhydrous ammonia it was carrying. The spilled ammonia vaporized into a toxic plume, necessitating the temporary evacuation of approximately 500 Teutopolis residents within a 1-mile radius of the crash site.
Miranda Andrews, a chemistry instructor at the University of Illinois Springfield, explained that the evacuation was crucial because anhydrous ammonia is highly dangerous to humans in its concentrated form. It seeks water for dissolution and, when inhaled, targets the moisture in the body’s membranes, causing damage akin to burns.
Dan Smith took on the role of settled pastor at St. Peter’s UCC on June 11, although he had been working at the church since February 1, 2022. Prior to joining the UCC, he had served as a Methodist pastor for two decades.
Remarkably, Dan Smith’s journey to Christianity began when he was 25, and he believed that coming to faith as an adult endowed him with a unique perspective, making him more empathetic towards unchurched individuals. He spoke about his desire to reach out to those who hadn’t experienced the love and grace offered by the Body of Christ, viewing the church as a place of healing and hope.
The tragic loss of Rev. Dan Smith is deeply felt by his congregation and the communities he served. The accident serves as a stark reminder of the dangers posed by hazardous materials transportation and the importance of safety measures to prevent such tragedies in the future. The victims and their families are in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time, as we mourn their untimely passing.