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Upland church mourns deaths of 4 in crash

An adult and three teens died when their van and a pickup towing a trailer collided west of Barstow.

June 25, 2007|Mary Engel | Times Staff Writer

Members of an Upland church scrapped their regular services Sunday and instead mourned the deaths of three teenagers and the wife of the church's youth director, killed Saturday in a fiery car crash while returning from a mission to a sister church.

Rebecca Vetterani, 28, a seminarian intern at First Presbyterian Church of Upland, died in the three-vehicle accident that shut down U.S. 395 west of Barstow for hours. Her husband, youth director Tom Vetterani, was severely burned and was in critical condition, church members said Sunday.

The victims included three teenagers whose names have not been released.

They had been friends since elementary school and had just completed their freshman year at Upland High School, said Monica Cadwalladerolsker, the former youth director of the 500-member church.

The van's other passengers, all teenagers, were injured, Cadwalladerolsker said. A coroner's news release said nine people were in the van.

"Everyone at the church is affected," Cadwalladerolsker said. "We're all just completely dumbfounded. We're doing everything we can to be there for the families."

The youth group had spent the week doing maintenance work and outreach at the 35-member Valley Presbyterian Church of Bishop, camping overnight near Mammoth Lakes.

"For some students, this will be their first opportunity to travel away from home to do God's work," Tom Vetterani wrote in the June church newsletter. "I am truly excited about this opportunity to see God work in a mighty way in the lives of our youth."

The accident occurred early Saturday afternoon on Highway 395 near California 58. According to the California Highway Patrol, a Ford pickup towing a travel trailer was northbound when it collided with the southbound van carrying the church group. The trailer that had been attached to the Ford then collided with a Toyota that was also southbound.

A passenger in the Ford, identified by the San Bernardino County coroner's office as a 50- to 60-year-old woman from Walnut, also was killed. The driver of the Ford and the two people in the Toyota were hospitalized.

The California Highway Patrol is investigating the accident.

mary.engel@latimes.com

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