After 27 years, survivor of tragic wreck thanks Quitman doctors

A cement truck collided with the Dallas Chinese Bible Church van on June 8, 1992 in Mineola.
A cement truck collided with the Dallas Chinese Bible Church van on June 8, 1992 in Mineola.
Wood County Democrat file photo

Twenty-seven years might seem like a long time to say thank you. But for one survivor of a devastating fatal wreck, expressing his gratitude was of the utmost importance.

As one of the 10 survivors of a deadly crash in Mineola, Rev. Dr. Stephen Go Tan travelled to UT Health Quitman (formerly Wood County Central Hospital) on Jan. 28 to thank Dr. George Cathey, Dr. Norman Hicks, Dr. Beverly Waddleton and medical staff for the medical treatment he received following the tragic collision.

On June 8, 1992, Dallas Chinese Bible Church teenagers were returning to Dallas after attending a Christian retreat at Brookhaven Retreat in Hawkins. A cement truck collided with one of the three church vans carrying the kids at the intersection of U.S. 69 and Loop 564. After the crash, flames engulfed the vehicle. Victims were taken to Wood County Central Hospital of Quitman and Tyler hospitals.

During his recent visit to Quitman, Tan said he couldn’t believe the amount of compassion that was shown to him and his fellow church members in small-town East Texas.

“The outpouring of love stuck out in me as a 16-year-old. It (the aftermath of the accident) was such a blur,” Tan said.

Tan is now the senior pastor at Grace Christian Church of the Philippines in Quezon City. He decided to visit the Quitman doctors during a recent trip to Texas.

Five died in the accident. Those killed were Betty Lim, 26; Adelina Lau, 18; Audrey Chiang, 16; Jonathan C. Fang, 17; Raymond Ng, 16.

Tan suffered minor burns.

Ambulances from Mineola, Quitman, Big Sandy, Lindale and Tyler assisted in the accident. East Texas Medical Center and Mother Frances Hospital used helicopters to transport patients to Tyler.

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, East Texas Medical Center officials urged emergency responders to talk about the accident and not bottle up their emotions.

“Having gone through it, I find myself more empathetic,” Tan said. “In the midst of everything, you saw the hand of God. Most of us are still are close-knit group.”

Victims and their families had to remain strong over years after the wreck. Although just one van was struck, kids from the other two vans were also traumatized, Tan noted.

“No one (wreck victims) processed it well and some will not process it,” he said. “Everyone (parents) who lost a child has still remained faithful. It’s important to talk about it and to our children.”

Tan added that the Asian community is often more reserved and closed up to talking about traumatic events, such as a vehicle wreck.

Hicks, now retired, said patients coming back to see their doctor personalizes the memories and doctor-patient interactions.

UT Health Quitman registered nurse Joannie Wainscott, who facilitated Tan’s meeting with the doctors, said there have been traumatic accidents at the Quitman’s hospital but none involving so many young people.

Tan explained that at least something positive emerged from the accident: Safety in church trips has become a primary concern.


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