Standing on a pulpit a few feet from where church members tried in vain to save an 8-year-old boy’s life, Pastor Jeff Neely said he didn’t attempt to explain the unfathomable: Why God lets bad things happen to innocents.
The tragedy happened on Saturday at a child’s birthday party being held at Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Arkansas, about 150 miles northeast of Little Rock.
Some of the children had wandered out to the Dry Creek Cemetery, which is adjacent to the church property but not maintained by Pleasant Hill, Neely told The Washington Post.
At some point, 8-year-old Trevor Walling tried to climb an ornate tombstone that’s shaped like a tree trunk, the pastor said. The stone was placed in 1906, according to Arkansas ABC-affiliate KAIT.
But a piece broke off and toppled onto Trevor, grievously injuring him.
Adults inside the church rushed to his aid, performing CPR on the boy as police and paramedics rushed to the scene, according to a news release from the Lawrence County Sheriff’s Office.
The boy was flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital, authorities said, but it was too late. He was pronounced dead by doctors.
Authorities have launched a death investigation, but they don’t suspect foul play.
Churchgoers from Pleasant Hill were collecting donations for the family. They were also sending up prayers.
Neely remembered a “rambunctious” boy whose family had been raised in the church for generations. Trevor’s father, Reggie, is a pastor at a church in Pleasant Plains, about an hour away, but the boy’s grandparents, aunts and uncles attend Pleasant Hill, which has nearly 150 members.
Speaking to many of them on Sunday, a day after Trevor died, Neely said he didn’t try to make sense of the boy’s death. Instead, he drew from the first chapter of 2 Corinthians, which speaks of a God “who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction.”
“There’s lots of questions why,” Neely told The Post. “We don’t know the whys. We just know that we have faith in the Lord.
“I know that faith is shaken at this time, when things like this happen.
The story is reminiscent of the death of 4-year-old Carson Dean Chaney, who was crushed by a tombstone while his family took pictures at the picturesque Glenwood Cemetery in Park City, Utah, according to CBS News.
Carson was pretending to be a leprechaun and put his hands on the tombstone so he could pop up behind it, CBS News reported.
Instead, the six-foot, 250-pound stone toppled over, crushing the boy. It took three men to pull the slab off the boy’s body.