Christmas Day car accident claims lives of 3 students, changes FBC Geneva forever

Ed Scott said he can’t remember how many people were already there when he got to the accident scene, but it was at least 100 or 150, maybe even a lot more.

It felt like most of the town.

“Geneva’s not a big town — it’s a small place, and everybody is closely connected,” said Scott, pastor of First Baptist Church, Geneva.

And on Christmas Day, when three students in his church’s youth group died in a single-car accident, everybody showed up — the families, the neighbors and every minister in town.

And, Scott said, they continued to show up.

“God has been incredibly gracious to us,” he said.

One teen death is a horrible tragedy, but three on Christmas from the same church — it’s a lot for a community to bear. And the three students — Cassidy Dunn, Emilee Fain and Addyson Martin — weren’t just casual attenders, Scott said. They were pillars of the youth group.

Compassionate response

On Facebook, someone labeled Dunn a fast talker and a fast friend. Fain, they wrote, brightened everyone’s day with her smile and “amazing sense of humor.” Martin was “passionate in everything” and loved making people’s lives better.

All three touched more people than they could’ve ever known, the post said.

That was evident as the crowd waited out on the road that day. First responders graciously held up tarps to curtain off the scene as they worked, and the community surrounded the families as they went through the first stages of grief.

“My hat is off to our church and community and to the first responders and funeral home staff,” Scott said. “Those guys just did a magnificent job.”

A couple of days later, First, Geneva, opened its doors to offer high school students a place to go and express their grief.

“We didn’t have a plan, we just wanted to give them a place,” he said, noting that ministers from other churches also came to be with the students. “Every few minutes a minister would get up and say a word and pray and read a passage of Scripture. It started off with a group sitting over here and another over there, and by the time it was over, it was one big group hug, which was exactly what they needed. We were there for about four hours.”

Then on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday following the accident, First, Geneva, had three funerals back to back.

“Our church absolutely rose to the occasion,” Scott said, noting that they prepared meals for the families all three days.

The rest of the Geneva faith community also came through.

Other churches came to serve the meals and set up chairs. One church offered to buy the meat for one of the meals, and others brought food too.

“It was amazing to see the way God’s people came together,” Scott said. “In all of that, God blessed and kept the people doing the funerals strong. It was a blur, but I know God was with us — I felt sustained. He was with all the ministers and absolutely positively with the families.”

Journey ahead

Every Christmas is going to be a hard day from now on for the families, and they have a long grief journey ahead, he said.

But something has shifted in the church, Scott said. They saw what they were able to do with “all hands-on deck,” and now with a fresh perspective on how short life really is, he encouraged them to “do that all the time.”

‘The job of the church’

“There’s no doubt in our mind that every one of these girls had a saving relationship with Jesus and are now in a beautiful heaven. They were solid kids,” Scott said. “We realize now that we’re surrounded by a whole community of folks who may not have that assurance, so we surely can’t let up doing the job of the church now.”

He said they “paid a high price” for that new awareness of the closeness of eternity, and they can’t afford to let that go.

“It has changed the character and the thought process of our church,” Scott said. “We’re a mess, but there’s no doubt that God has been involved and that He will get good from a bad situation.”