Wednesday, August 31, 2011

LDS Missionary Vanessa Bentley Dies From Injuries Sustained In Traffic Accident In Upstate New York; Companion Injured, Cited For Failure To Yield

One sister missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has died and another injured in a traffic accident occurring on August 30th, 2011 in upstate New York. Primary media stories from the Deseret News, which focuses on the missionaries' lives, and WWNY Channel 7 in Watertown, NY, which focuses on the details of the accident. I have added the name of the deceased to my partial list of LDS missionaries who have died while on missionary service.

21-year-old Sister Natalie Love of Hemet, CA and 22-year-old Sister Vanessa Bentley of Tucson, AZ were traveling in a church-owned car on State Route 37 in Lisbon, New York. Love was driving west on Route 37 when she attempted to make a left hand turn onto Sports Club Road around 12:24 P.M. on August 30th. Unfortunately, she failed to yield the right of way to an oncoming Jeep driven by 49-year-old Nora McDonald of Madrid. The Jeep struck the passenger side of Love's vehicle, where Bentley was sitting. The Watertown Daily Times reports that although the vehicle was equipped with side airbags, they did not offer sufficient protection since it was a direct hit.

Bentley was transported to Claxton Hepburn Medical Center in Ogdensburg and later flown to Fletcher Allen Medical Center in Vermont, but she passed away at 4:20 P.M. on Tuesday August 30th. Love was transported to Claxton Hepburn Medical Center and later transferred to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, where she is now listed in fair condition with non-life threatening internal injuries. Love has been cited for failure to yield the right of way. A photo of Natalie Love is available HERE.

LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter issued official condolences from the Church. "Our sympathy and prayers go out to all those affected by this accident," Trotter said. "We pray that the Spirit of the Lord will bring comfort, peace and healing to all." Ted Champagne, the branch president of the Ogdensburg Branch, confirmed that the missionaries were on their way to visit someone interested in the Church when the accident occurred. He noted that although Bentley had been on her mission for 13 months, she had only been assigned to the local area for three weeks, and added that his congregation was "devastated". Photo of Vanessa Bentley available HERE.

Vanessa Bentley is the fifth of Steve and Debbie Bentley's seven children and the third to serve an LDS mission; her two brothers both served missions in Ecuador. She impressed people with the kindness and compassion clearly manifest through her service. Her father Steve said, "Her mission president told us that she was a great missionary — humble, obedient and hard-working. She did everything she was asked to do, willingly. We just have to assume that Heavenly Father was in charge of this last transfer."

A comment has been posted to the Deseret News by someone who identifies himself as Bentley's brother-in-law:

Bret S. | 5:27 p.m. Aug. 31, 2011 OREM, UT:
Vanessa is my sister-in-law, my wife her older sister. This has been devastating for all of our families. We did not know pain like this existed. But we take some comfort knowing Vanessa did not suffer, and that she was doing what she thought was right in serving a mission, and died firm in her convictions. We love her so much and her memory will survive for generations. She was an amazing girl.

For those that knew her a facebook group has been set up in her memory. Search for VanessaBentleyForever as this site won't allow me to post the actual URL.

So far, I've been unable to locate the facebook site referenced. It appears the site's webmaster wants to keep the url private to deter sickos who spam memorialization websites.

Natalie Love's going to be in for a rough ride. Not only does she have to recover from her physical injuries, but, like all normal people, will have to deal with a sense of personal guilt over having taken unintentional action which cost her companion her life. Being a Latter-day Saint does not exempt one from encountering such feelings. In addition to prayers for the family of Vanessa Bentley, prayers for the welfare of Natalie Love are also in order and will undoubtedly be appreciated.

But what being a Latter-day Saint does for someone like Natalie Love in this predicament is to give them a strategy and the community support necessary to help deal with both the physical and mental pain resultant from this tragedy.


Zwick family said...

The facebook site is there. You have to be someone who knew Vanessa Bentley and then be accepted to the site.
My daughter served with her in the New York Utica Mission, and she was a wonderful missionary.

Jack Mormon said...

That's fair. They obviously want to protect the Facebook site against being spammed. There are sickos in society who will spam memorialization sites.

Steve Finnell said...

you are invited to follow my blog

Jack Mormon said...

Invitation accepted, Steve

Makenzie said...

I knew Vanessa very well. We went to high school together, went to church together and even shared the same birthday. She was such an AMAZING girl and is going to be missed by so many. "Til we meet again"

Bret S. said...

Thanks for memorializing our missionaries who have passed on during their service. I am Vanessa's brother-in-law (same one who posted on the Deseret News article). Funeral services were held this past Tuesday in Tucson. The entire Arizona Tucson Mission attended, sitting in the far back. They rose and stood during the closing hymn, "God Be With You Til We Meet Again." To those in attendance, we felt as if soliders were saluting one of their own, lost in combat. It was as touching tribute to our dear Vanessa.

One small correction to your article, she passed away at approximately 4:20 pm, Eastern time, having never regained consciousness from the initial crash 4 hour earlier.

Jack Mormon said...

Thanks for your input, Bret. I have updated my post to reflect the corrected time. I offer my condolences.