Newton lifts up first responders with prayer
Don Gruver, director of Harvey County Communications, stood quietly in Krehbiel Park on Sunday night, waiting for an event to start. He muttered a statistic that has so many first responders feeling stress right now.
"We've had 11 code blacks in three weeks," Gruver said.
Code black is a condition code for deceased. While sitting on the dispatch desk at 911, Gruver took a homicide call this month. His first in decades of being a dispatcher.
Sunday night he was waiting for a prayer meeting to start — one that was created by local pastors in short order following the most recent code black call.
July 24 two people died when a 2019 G3500 van, southbound on I135 left the roadway to the left and struck a KDOT guardrail. The van continued southbound and vaulted, striking the northbound bridge structure followed by a concrete embankment.
Stephanie Manyseng, 35, Wichita and Rudy Perez-Marcial, 43, Wichita, were declared dead after being transported to the Sedgwick County Forensic Science Center. Five passengers were transported with serious injuries to Wesley Medical Center in Wichita.
"I can't imagine being the caller to 911 to tell them my friend has just been shot, or that I saw a 15 passenger van just jump off the highway," said Clint McBroom, pastor of First Church of God of Newton and organizer of the prayer vigil July 26.
The last three weeks have seen not only that accident on I-135, but a car collide with a semi near the Outlet Mall exit of the Interstate — killing two people. First responders have been at the site of a teen drowning in rural harvey county, a homicide that left a 14-year-old girl dead, a man killed by a train southwest of Newton and a fatal motorcycle accident in Newton.
After all of that, McBroom called several pastors in Newton to put together a prayer meeting in the park — just across the street from City Hall and in the heart of downtown. At least six congregations from Newton were represented by their pastors during the prayer event. A little more than 50 people attended the service.
Prayer was offered for all first responders and their families, along with the families affected by the string of recent tragedies.
"I am not one to say, and I don't believe that God is punishing anybody or anything like that. What I do believe is that Satan loves to cause as much mayhem, confusion and disrpution as he can in our community, There are so many positive things about this community and would love to see this community crumble under tragedy," McBroom said.