Small Town News

Disaster and Accident

#5 Malakoff Catholic Church crash and fire

The Malakoff News of Malakoff, Texas

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MALAKOFF-A SUV crashed through the front of Mary Queen of Heaven Catholic Church in Malakoff on April 25, catching the building on fire and rendering it a total loss with the roof on verge of collapse.

Malakoff Police Chief Billy Mitchell identified the driver as Robert Nokes, 38, who Mitchell said was flown by helicopter to a Tyler hospital after the unconscious man was freed from the vehicle. His condition is unknown. Father William

Palmer said he presumed Nokes suffered a medical emergency and that it was a "tragic accident" from which he was praying the man would recover.

"His foot was still on the pedal, and the wheels were still turning," after crashing into the building, Palmer said.

Malakoff police officer Robert Siegmund was the first to respond after the emergency call came in about 1:45 p.m., Mitchell said. The chief arrived soon thereafter and used a fire extinguisher around the ve-hicle while Siegmund crawled into the SUV. The seat belt was eventually cut to free the man. The chief said Siegmund probably saved the man's life, and added afterward he would nominate him for an award of valor for the deed.

The SUV barely missed church secretary Carol Leonard, whose office is near the front of the building. According to a source, Leonard chose not to identify, the SUV had been parked near the cemetery north of the church, and by the time the unnamed person returned, the vehicle had crashed into the building.

Father Palmer said he had just recently spoken with an architect about renovations to the church, and that the building is insured. "We'll be fine. We'll carry on," Palmer said. Father Palmer added that he was at the church rectory when Leonard called to report the crash. Bishop Joseph Strickland of the Diocese of Tyler was on hand to view the damage.

Fire departments from Malakoff, Payne Springs, Trinidad, Log Cabin and Caney City responded. Malakoff assistant fire chief Bubba Matthews said that units from Malakoff were the first on the scene, and Matthews added that soon thereafter Malakoff firefighters called dispatch to bring in units from Caney City and Trinidad. Officials from the Henderson County Fire Marshal's office also were on hand to investigate.

The church, established in 1996, is located just north of Malakoff High School on the county road that leads to Fisherman's Wharf marina and campground on Cedar Creek Lake. The building formerly housed a sewing factory, according to the church's website.

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Original Publication Date: January 3, 2014

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