Rescue workers want to thank a higher power for the miraculous rescue of a young woman injured in a head-on collision Sunday morning on a rural stretch of road near Center, Mo.
The Missouri Highway Patrol says a suspected drunk driver crossed the center line, hitting Katie Lentz, 19, head-on.
And now the rescue effort to free Lentz from her mangled vehicle has turned into a search effort for the priest who suddenly appeared on the scene shortly after the trapped woman asked rescuers to pray out loud with her.
"He came up and approached the patient, and offered a prayer," Fire Chief Raymond Reed told WHQA-TV.
"It was a Catholic priest who had anointing oil with him. A sense of calmness came over her, and it did us as well. I can't be for certain how it was said, but myself and another firefighter, we very plainly heard that we should remain calm, that our tools would now work and that we would get her out of that vehicle."
Rescue crews had already spent an hour trying to extricate Lentz from the vehicle when the priest appeared out of nowhere. They were having trouble cutting through the frame of her older model Mercedes.
"It was a very well-built car, and when you compact materials like that one, they become even stronger because you're cutting through multiple things instead of one layer," Reed said.
Reed says Lentz was pinned in between the steering wheel and the seat. After 45 minutes had passed, medical workers told rescue crews that Katie was failing fast.
That's when the priest showed up and began praying.
Moments later, new rescue equipment arrived at the scene, freeing Lentz. Once she was safely aboard a hospital helicopter, at least a dozen rescue workers turned around to thank the mysterious priest.
He was nowhere in sight.
The highway had been blocked for a quarter-mile during the hour-and-a-half rescue, leaving no bystanders and no parked cars nearby, but the priest had vanished.
Lentz's family and friends are amazed by the story.
"Where did this guy come from?" Lentz's friend Travis Wiseman asked. "We're looking for the priest and so far, no one has seen him. Whether it was a priest as an angel or an actual angel, he was an angel to all those and to Katie."
"We would like to find this gentleman and be able to thank him," Reed said. "As a first responder, you don't know what you're going to run into. We have a lot of tools, and we have intensive training. In this particular case, it is my feeling that it was nothing more than sheer faith and nothing short of a miracle."
Katie Lentz suffered several broken bones in the crash and has undergone multiple surgeries for her injuries.
She is expected to make a full recovery.