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Church member recalls fiery crash that killed two members | Community Spirit

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Church member recalls fiery crash that killed two members
Church member recalls fiery crash that killed two members

A young man who felt called to help the victims trapped inside the Cedar Grove Baptist Church van is being called a "hero" by the victim's family.

"There was just something inside me telling me 'you've got to do this. You've got to help them out,'" said 18-year Nick Davis.

The crash happened on Chapman Highway in Sevier County. The driver of a Chevy Blazer crossed the center line of the highway. The SUV, driven by 21-year-old Tyler Schaeffer of Seymour, hit a church van carrying 12 people from Cedar Grove Baptist Church head-on. The van flipped, landed in a ditch, and caught fire.

Two people were killed: the van's driver Jeff Trussell, 45, of Maryville and one of his passengers Courtney Kaliszewski, 16.

The church van was on the way back from a retreat in Gatlinburg.

Davis was driving a vehicle in front of the van and saw it all in his rear view mirror.

"It was very hectic. I was in shock. I didn't want to believe what had happened," he said.

It's a scene that the college freshman can't bring himself to talk about three days after the accident. He rushed in to help without thinking twice.

"Me and my friend Dylan and a few other people who came off the road to help us, we opened the doors for the back first and a few people got out from the back and on the side we had to pry the door open," he described of their efforts.

Davis and others were able to successfully help many of the youth group members out of the van.

"I know that everything came from God. I couldn't have done it on my own. There's no way," said Davis.

Davis said as he tries to put those memories behind him, he will cherish the time he spent with Trussell and Kaliszewski.

He says Trussell was a father figure to him.

"He's always been there for me. High school and middle school were the toughest times of my life so far. And he's just always been there," he said.

He can't help but smile when he thinks of Kaliszewski.

"She was a sweet girl. Always laughed and loved music. If I ever had my guitar, she would ask me to play "Coldplay" and I did," he said.

In Trussell's obituary in the Maryville Daily Times, the family calls Davis a "hero."

He says it's a title he will not take credit for but the pastor of Cedar Grove Baptist Church says he believes Davis and others helped to save lives.

As of Wednesday night, just one of the ten people injured in Sunday morning's crash remains in the hospital. That person, whose name is not being released, was in critical condition but was upgraded Wednesday.

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