CENTER, MO. -- Rescue workers want to thank a higher power for coming to the rescue early Sunday morning.
Emergency crews spent an hour and a half trying to extricate a 19-year-old Quincy woman trapped in her in crushed car on Missouri 19 near Center, Mo.
The Missouri Highway Patrol said Aaron Smith, 26, crossed the center line and struck Katie Lentz head-on.
Now, friends, family and those who rescued Lentz would love to find and thank a mysterious priest who they say helped make the rescue possible.
New London Fire Chief Raymond Reed said rescue crews spent the first 45 minutes after the accident trying to get Lentz out of a car to no avail Sunday morning shortly after 9 a.m. The metal on an older model Mercedes dulled the department's equipment.
"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 passed, medical workers told rescue crews that Katie was failing and fast. That's when Reed decided to move the car, which was standing on its side, back on all four wheels.
About an hour into the rescue, Katie asked rescue workers to pray out loud with her. That's when a priest appeared out of no where.
"He came up and approached the patient, and offered a prayer," Reed said. "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."
The Hannibal Fire Department showed up right after that prayer with fresh equipment and was able to finish the extrication. After getting Katie safely into the Air Evac helicopter, at least a dozen of the rescue workers turned around to thank the priest who was no where in sight. The highway had been blocked for a quarter of a mile during the hour and a half rescue, leaving no bystanders and no parked cars nearby. Lentz' 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."
Two witnesses have described the priest to KHQA. Click here for description.
Katie has undergone surgeries to repair several broken bones. She is scheduled for more surgeries in the coming weeks, but friends and family say her spirit has not wavered.
"Both of her legs are very damaged," Lentz's friend Amanda Wiseman said. "Her wrist is broken, several broken ribs, so she's had a lot of broken bones to deal with."
According to Katie's mother, Katie's condition has been upgraded to serious condition in Blessing Hospital. In addition to several internal injuries, she has undergone orthopedic surgeries and has more to face.
"All along the way, her foremost request is for people to pray and to pray out loud," she said. "We would like nothing more than to carry that message forward for her."
The driver of the other car in that accident, Aaron Smith, has been charged with a DWI, second degree assault and failure to drive on the right half of the roadway.
KHQA asked the Missouri Department of Transportation if there have ever been talks of turning Missouri 19 into a 4-lane highway.
A MoDOT spokesperson said a group called the Tri-State Development Group has identified that highway as a priority to examine. However, MoDOT has never identified that road as a priority.
Source: KHQA 7 News Connect TriStates