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.