First Missionary Baptist Church in Smithfield is asking for prayer following a fatal accident involving their church van Sunday in Wake County. Two people died in the accident, including a long time member of the church and the driver of an SUV. Several church members remain hospitalized. At least one of the members is undergoing surgery today for serious injuries.
Around 5:30pm Sunday, a 1994 Dodge van belonging to First Missionary Baptist Church on Caswell Street in Smithfield was traveling on Highway 96 just south of US401 in Wake County when it struck a deer that had entered the roadway. The driver of the van, Edward Lee Barfield, 62, of Smithfield lost control. The van continued traveling south sideswiping a 2008 Toyota van causing minor damage then collided head on with a 2014 Dodge SUV operated by Deborah Powell, 62, of Roxboro, NC.
The Dodge SUV ran off the roadway and submerged in water off the left side of the roadway. The van overturned in the roadway.
Powell, the driver of the SUV, was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in the van, William Henderson Clayton, 84, also died at the scene.
A total of 12 others in the church van were taken to Wake Med and Duke Medical Center. Five passengers were taken to Wake Med in serious condition. Six passengers were taken to Duke in serious condition. Barfield, the driver of the van, was taken by Life Flight to Wake Med in critical condition.
The NC Highway Patrol is investigating the accident and will discuss their findings with the Wake County District Attorney’s Office about any possible charges.
William Henderson Clayton was well known in Johnston County. He grew up on a 123 acre farm in Person County with his father, three brothers, and two sisters. His mother died when he was two and was raised by his father and siblings.
He graduated from Person County High School where he played football and was a member of the New Farmers of America. He did apprentice work at Sharpe Funeral Home in Roxboro, but didn’t like the work and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served 5 years as a noncommissioned officer in the anti-aircraft and field artillery division in Ft. Bliss, Texas, Ft. Myer, Virginia, Alaska and Germany.
Following an honorable discharge from the military, Mr. Clayton enrolled in A&T State University in Greensboro and received a degree in agricultural education in 1963. He joined the Johnston County Extension Service in June 1963 and did additional study at NC State in Raleigh.
In 1974 he received the Johnston County 4-H Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents in Wichita, Kansas. He later retired from the Extension Service.
He was a former member of the Johnston County Board of Health, Clayton Improvement Council, Clayton School Career Education Advisory Council, and Clayton Chamber of Commerce. In 1972, he received certificates of appreciation from the Clayton Chamber for his leadership in the Clayton Soybean Festival and the Governor’s Award Program.
He was also a longtime member of the First Missionary Baptist Church in Smithfield.
Church Asks For Prayer
Monday morning, First Missionary Baptist Church requested prayer for the family of William Clayton and all those who were injured. The congregation also covets prayer as they are in shock and mourning, according to a brief statement.
Scene photos courtesy ABC11