BY STAFF REPORTER
SEVENTEEN parishioners from Vietnamese churches in Texas were killed last week when a pilgrimage bus flew off a highway overpass and crashed on to the road below.
The bus had picked them up from Houston, Texas, and was talcing them to a Marian festival in Missouri.
Family members of the dead and injured hurried to the scene of the crash near Dallas, while others gathered at Our Lady of Lavang and Vietnamese Martyrs churches in Houston to pray and await word on the victims. Special Masses were planned for Houston and Dallas Vietnamese parishes on the evening of the accident.
Twelve passengers died at the scene and another five later died in hospital.
Annette Gonzales Taylor, spokeswoman for the Dallas diocese, said churches in the area prepared places for family members to gather, rest, get a meal and receive other assistance.
Those injured in the crash were taken to regional hospitals. where chaplains were scrambling to find translators and pastoral assistance from local Vietnamese-speaking priests, she said.
The Red Cross and Catholic Charities of Dallas offered to help families from Houston find lodging while they tended to injured relatives or made arrangements for the bodies of the deceased to be sent home.
The Dallas spokeswoman said there was some difficulty identifying victims — both the injured who were unconscious and those who were killed. The crash occurred shortly before one am so many passengers had settled in to sleep and weren't carrying identification, she explained. Hospitals reported treating at least 40 people with injuries.
Tens of thousands of Vietnamese Catholics travel each summer to Carthage in Missouri for a weekend of prayer. talks and renewal held at the motherhouse of the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix.
Bishop James V Johnston of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri, issued a statement of sympathy, saying that "our Church is profoundly saddened by this tragic accident". He asked for prayers for God's consolation for the grieving, healing for the injured, and mercy and eternal peace for those who died.
The bus hosted by Vietnamese Martyrs parish was one of a caravan of buses and cars that left Houston the evening before. Texas newspapers reported that the National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the accident, and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration quickly ordered the bus company to cease all commercial operations immediately.
The newspapers said that the safety administration called the Houston business, Iguala Busmex, which is part of a company called Angel Tours, an "imminent hazard".
The safety administration also said the company's "grossly deficient maintenance" contributed to the crash. Another company bus carrying pilgrims to Carthage from the two parishes arrived without incident, but was taken out of service in Missouri under federal orders.
Cardinal Daniel DiNardo said that he and the entire Archdiocese of GalvestonHouston mourned for the crash victims and their families.