A Lexington family that lost four members in a crash was in Texas for the father’s graduation from a biblical institute, according to the organization.
Israel Avelar and three of his sons were killed Saturday in the crash near Carthage, Texas. His wife and a daughter were critically injured.
The family had left Houston for home after Israel Avelar graduated Friday with a degree in pastoral theology from from Instituto Biblico Bautista Libertad, which is associated with Iglesia Bautista Libertad in Houston, according to the institute.
Avelar apparently had been enrolled in the institute’s distance-learning program.
The family had attended Clays Mill Road Baptist Church in Lexington for about 15 years, and Avelar had started a new church on Leestown Road, according to Clays Mill pastor Jeff Fugate.
In addition to Avelar, sons Kevin, 17; Daniel, 14; and Matthew, 6, died, Fugate said.
Hilda Avelar and Kimberly “Kimmie” Avelar, 11, were in critical condition after the crash, he said. Israel Avelar’s mother, Lazara “Sarah” Abaraca, 66, also was traveling with the family and was injured.
Fugate said the hospital tried to perform facial reconstruction surgery on Hilda Avelar, but they had to stop because her injuries were so severe that a specialist was needed.
Fugate said Hilda Avelar recognized her daughter Bibiann, 22, a secretary at Clays Mills Baptist Church, and said, “Bibiann, help me.”
Hilda Avelar is not yet aware of what has happened to her husband and sons, Fugate said. “I’ll go down Friday and I’m going to be with her to tell what has happened,” Fugate said.
Kimmie Avelar is at a children’s hospital in Dallas. “She has a breathing tube still in. She wrote on a tablet, ‘Where’s Mom and Dad?’ and so her sister told her,” Fugate said. “They took her neck brace off. She tried to sit up earlier, and it hurt so bad they had to give her morphine. So they have delayed removing the breathing tube for another day. They put that off ’til tomorrow because of that.”
Both of Abaraca’s legs were broken, so “she may be the most difficult to move for a while,” Fugate said.
All the children were students at Clays Mill Road Christian Academy, Fugate said.
“These are fine kids,” he said.
Friends and neighbors were trying to comprehend the losses Monday.
Neighbor Tanya Tyler, who is pastor of Chalice Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in London, recalled when the three youngest children were born. She also remembered Kevin mowing her lawn and helping her with other tasks.
“Every time I saw him, I would think he had such potential, and I was so excited to think about the things that he would do in his life,” Tyler said. “They were a wonderful, fun-loving family, the kind of neighbors anyone would want. I talked to some of our other neighbors, and we still can’t believe it that this has happened.
“I keep looking at their house, and it’s heart-wrenching to think it will never be the same. The little ones would ride around the cul-de-sac on their bikes, and Kevin would shoot baskets, and Israel would read his Bible sitting at the curb in his lawn chair.
“I may be a pastor, but I am asking the same tearful questions other people are asking. Why this family that was just a great example of a family that loved and served God? Why all of them? I may be a pastor, but I don’t have the answers to those questions.”
The crash occurred about 10:15 a.m. Saturday on Texas Hwy. 315.
The family’s GMC Savana van had slowed down in traffic for a vehicle turning off the highway in front of it when the van was struck from behind, according to police. The collision pushed the van into the path of an oncoming tractor-trailer. The Texas Department of Public Safety was investigating.
Israel Avelar had received a degree in 2012 from Commonwealth Baptist College on Versailles Road in Lexington, Fugate said, and had recently helped Clays Mill start a Spanish-speaking congregation on Leestown Road.
Israel Avelar went to the graduation of a friend in Texas, Fugate said. “We didn’t know and Bibiann didn’t know that he was getting a diploma” from the Texas school, he said.
The family attended Clays Mill Road Baptist on Sunday nights and Wednesday nights, Fugate said.
“They’re a part of everything,” he said.