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Church engulfed in flames after car crashes through doors

Photo: WCYB

SMYTH COUNTY, Va. (WCYB) - A church in Smyth County, Virginia, caught fire Wednesday morning after a Chevrolet Impala crashed through its doors. Virginia State Police are still trying to find the driver of the car.

Police say that around 5:45 AM, they got a call that a car crashed through the doors of Pugh Mountain Free Will Baptist Church near Marion, starting a severe fire.

A neighbor who saw it said the driver got up and ran away.

Ashes, collapsed beams, and melted plastic were all that was left of the entrance to the church. Members were shocked to hear what happened.

"We got a call at 6 o'clock,” church clerk Dorothy Firestone said. “My husband answered and they said the church was on fire."

Firestone and her husband rushed to the church.

"We saw the back part of the church,” Firestone said. “It didn't look that bad, but then we saw the steeple burning. And like I said, I knew if the steeple was burning it had to be bad. And of course, when we came around and saw the front, we knew."

The driver apparently lost control on a curve in the road just before the crash. The neighbor who called 911 saw gasoline leaking from the bottom of the car.

The church plans to rebuild.

"We have insurance, and we'll be looking for the adjuster to come and see the cost of the damage."

At this time, police have not named a suspect or a person of interest, but the investigation is active. Virginia state police say they are looking for a suspect. They describe him as a white man in his 30's or early 40's with a tall, slender build. Police said he was wearing dark clothing at the time of the crash.

Church members will not miss services Sunday. Instead they will meet at the American Legion on Highway 11 Sunday morning at 10:00.

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