Struggling rescue workers get help from passing priest

Courtesy: Carla Churchhill Lentz

Rescue workers are still scratching their heads over who that priest was who came to the rescue Sunday morning.

That's when emergency workers spent more than an hour freeing 19-year-old Katie Lentz of Quincy from her car.

Medical crews said she was failing fast.

Witnesses said a mysterious priest came out of no where to pray with rescue workers and Katie.

Ralls County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Adair was the first rescue worker on the. About an hour into the rescue, the situation became dire.

"The fire chief, Raymond Reed, had stepped back and came up to me and said he was concerned cause he was out of options," Adair said. "His tools weren't working and by that time, it as almost an hour and said I don't know how we're going to get her out. I said, 'Raymond, I promised her mother and her that we'd get her out. We have to get her out,' and he said I know and went back."

Ten minutes later, Katie asked those around her to pray out loud with her. That's when they say a priest walked up from the north part of the highway. No one saw how he got there. Reed says the highway was blocked for two to three miles, and emergency responders were not letting anyone past the road blocks.

"My first thought was that it would possibly send the wrong message to Katie that maybe we had called a priest and thought she wasn't going to make it," Adair said. "So I went back and talked to the priest and told him we were worried she would think we'd given up hope. He said, 'I just want to anoint her and so we just let him come up to the scene."

Witnesses say he anointed Katie and her rescuers with oil, prayed with them, asking them to remain calm and saying that the crew's equipment would work.

The Hannibal Fire Department pulled up shortly after with fresh equipment and was able to free Katie. After getting her in the Air Evac helicopter, rescue workers said the priest was no where in sight. New London Fire Chief Raymond Reed said the department ended up taking 80 photos of the scene. He said the priest did not appear in any of them.

"I've done this a long time, and it's probably the most horrific accident I've ever seen," Adair said. "Twenty-seven years as a police officer, and I've never seen a person as strong as she is."

The Diocese of Jefferson City said it has not located the priest involved.

"The Diocese has not been contacted by any of its priests assigned in the area, or elsewhere in the Diocese, that they were involved in this matter, Director of Communications Dan Joyce said. "Out of respect for the privacy of any priest who may have been involved and does not wish to come forward, the Diocese does not plan to further investigate this incident. The Diocese is grateful that a priest was able to exercise his ministry in this manner and requests prayers for healing of the accident victim."

Adair described the priest as being between 60 to 65 years of age, 5'6", olive skin and had a thick accent. He was dressed in a traditional black shirt and pants, white collar with a silver, older looking cross around his neck.

Find Adair's full interview by clicking here.