By Associate Editor Joe May
LITTLE ROCK Ark. (BNc)- Two elderly saints were killed in Little Rock as they attempted to cross the street Jan. 16 for Wednesday evening Bible study at Central church of Christ.
According to an article in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Boyd Dorsey, 80, and his wife, Norma, 76, were struck by a Honda Pilot SUV on West Sixth Street in front of the meeting house around 6:50 p.m. Sister Dorsey died at the scene; Brother Dorsey passed away about two hours later at St. Vincent Medical Center in the capital.
The couple had parked in a parking lot just north of the building and were crossing the street directly in front of the main entrance. The area where they were walking was not well-lit, a police report noted.
The driver of the SUV, 62-year-old James Hatch of Little Rock, told police that he did not see the Dorseys until he struck them. The state paper noted that it had just begun to rain. He claimed he was traveling the posted speed limit of 30 mph.
The congregation’s evangelist Leon Barnes told the newspaper that the street in front of the building lacks adequate lighting, crosswalks, stop signs and traffic signals. The paper noted that the building takes up an entire block along West Sixth Street between South State and Izard streets.
Following the accident, Little Rock City Manager Bruce Moore told the newspaper that he intends to form a team of police officers, traffic engineers and public-works employees to assess the block’s safety. They will make whatever changes are necessary, he noted, adding that crosswalks, stop signs and or traffic signals could be added.
Gary Low, one of two volunteer security guards from the congregation that evening, said that the accident occurred just seconds after he had set a cone in the middle of the street to try to slow traffic. Volunteers from the congregation use cones and hand-held stop signs to slow traffic during church functions.
Police said the couple were dragged some 30 feet. Witnesses noted Sister Dorsey was under the vehicle when it came to a stop. Brother Dorsey was pinned under the front left tire.
Children’s minister Michael Cooper told the newspaper that he ran into the street to assist after the accident occurred. Norma Dorsey had already died with severe head injures. Boyd Dorsey was conscious and asking about his wife’s welfare.
Police said Boyd Dorsey suffered severe internal injuries.
Cooper recounted Brother Dorsey’s last words at the hospital were, “Let me go. Let me go be with [my wife].” No one had told him that Sister Dorsey was gone, but Cooper told the newspaper that Brother Dorsey seemed to understand that she had passed away.
The safety of those coming in to worship has long been a concern at the Central church. The street is known for several vehicle accidents; in fact, the congregation had gone so far as to place concrete flower beds to protect the building from accidents. City officials had denied a request in the past to close the one-block section of West Sixth Street during church functions.
Barnes said a crosswalk across West Sixth Street at South State Street is needed, as is a stop sign to slow traffic on the one-way street.
Vehicles routinely violate the posted speed limits on the street, the preacher stated. Some motorists have even timed the downtown traffic signals so they can speed all the way from Interstate 30.
Denominational churches in Little Rock were interviewed by the statewide newspaper and also expressed similar concerns about the safety of those entering their buildings for worship.
A photo of the Dorseys and information about funeral arrangements were posted on the congregation’s website.
Central church began in the 1920s and was for several years known as the Barrow Road congregation. In November 2003, the congregation purchased the former Sixth and Izard congregation’s property when that congregation built a new building and changed its name to the Windsong church. Attendance averages about 600 per Sunday, according to their website.