CENTER, Mo. (AP) - First responders in northeast Missouri struggled to extricate a young woman from a serious car wreck until a mysterious priest arrived and helped calm rescuers and the victim. The woman's friends and family now want to know: Who was that mysterious clergyman?
KHQA-TV (http://bit.ly/1cxk70m ) reports that the accident happened Sunday morning when a suspected drunk driver crossed the center line of Route 19 near Center, Mo., and struck a car driven by 19-year-old Katie Lentz of Quincy, Ill., head on.
Rescue crews struggled to get Lentz out of the badly damaged car, said Raymond Reed, fire chief from nearby New London, Mo. She was trapped between the steering wheel and her seat, and the strong metal of her older model Mercedes was proving difficult to cut through.
After about an hour, Lentz asked rescuers to pray out loud with her. Medical personnel at the site said Lentz was failing fast.
That's when a Catholic priest suddenly appeared.
"He came up and approached the patient, and offered a prayer," Reed said. "It was a Catholic priest who had anointing oil with him. A sense of calmness came over her, and it did us as well. I can't be for certain how it was said, but myself and another firefighter, we very plainly heard that we should remain calm, that our tools would now work and that we would get her out of that vehicle."
About then, firefighters from Hannibal, Mo., showed up with equipment to extricate Lentz from the wreck. Rescuers took Lentz to Blessing Hospital in Quincy in a helicopter.
About a dozen rescuers turned to thank the priest, but he was gone, a fact made even more mysterious because the highway was blocked for a quarter of a mile, and there were no bystanders or parked cars anywhere nearby.
"Where did this guy come from?" Lentz's friend Travis Wiseman asked. "We're looking for the priest and so far, no one has seen him. Whether it was a priest as an angel or an actual angel, he was an angel to all those and to Katie."
Reed said the first responders were amazed.
"It is my feeling that it was nothing more than sheer faith and nothing short of a miracle," he said.
Lentz is in serious condition after surgeries to repair several broken bones. She'll face more surgeries in the coming weeks, but friends and family say her spirit is strong.
"Her foremost request is for people to pray and to pray out loud," she said. "We would like nothing more than to carry that message forward for her."
The driver of the car that struck Lentz's Mercedes is expected to face charges that include driving while intoxicated.
Editor's Note: We're working on a followup to this story with additional information which will be published Friday morning.