The Rev. Rogery Adams was in the middle of welcoming guests to a Miami Gardens church Sunday afternoon for a special service to celebrate the church’s 75th anniversary when he heard a loud bang.
And the building shook.
“It sounded like an explosion,” Adams said as he pointed out the chunks of concrete that littered the blue pews and aisles of Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church. “I couldn’t see the car at first; all I saw was debris.”
Many of the nearly 250 parishioners inside initially thought a bomb had gone off in the church at 15250 NW 22nd Ave., Adams said.
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“I was standing right at the end of the pew,” said Arleen Bishop, an usher. “It sounded like the building was going to collapse.”
But everyone soon realized it was a car that plowed into the side of the building and left a gaping hole in the sanctuary.
“We are just lucky it didn’t come all the way in,” he said of the car that crashed at about 12:15 p.m. “I just told everyone to remain calm.”
The impact sent concrete flying, hitting and injuring at least 12 people sitting in the last three pews on the left side of the church. One man, who was hit in the head, was taken by helicopter to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, Adams said.
Also injured: several teenage girls who were in the pews waiting to perform a dance. Adams said that while some of them received cuts and bruises, most were just in shock.
While police haven’t released information on the crash, Adams, neighbors and several parishioners said the driver of a black sedan was heading south on Northwest 22nd Avenue when he swerved to avoid a car that had come out from a side street.
A woman who lives across the street, but didn’t want to give her name, said she heard a bang and ran across the street to find a man getting out of the car that had crashed into the church.
“Basically he was just shocked,” she said. “He said he hurt his leg.”
By about 2:30 p.m. the mangled car was removed from the building and towed away. Church members swept the floors, brushed the pews and boarded the hole.
This wasn’t the first time something like this happened at the church. Adams said he was in the middle of a Wednesday night Bible study about a year ago when a car struck a concrete light pole outside of the church. He said the light pole stopped the car from hitting the church. A hunk of concrete still stands where the pole used to be, with an orange traffic cone covering it.
Adams said that though they were interrupted, it was important that they continued with the service to “thank God for it not being worse.”
“We are grateful everyone was seated and no one was standing in this area at the time,” he said. “God is good.”
Carli Teproff: 305-376-3587, @CTeproff