Hundreds remember church van crash victims 1 year later Heidi Wigdahl
(WBIR-Maryville) Monday marks one year since a fiery crash claimed the lives of two members of an East Tennessee church.
Youth leader Jeff Trussell, 45, and 16-year-old Courteney Kaliszewski were killed when an SUV hit the youth group's van head-on as they were traveling back to church from a youth retreat.10 others were injured in the crash.
Authorities said the driver of the SUV, Tyler Schaeffer, was high on bath salts at the time.
On Sunday, the church held its first ever "Hold On Be Strong 5K."
Church bells rang out in the morning at Cedar Grove Baptist Church in Maryville in memory of Trussell and Kaliszewski. More than 600 people either ran or walk in a 5K that afternoon.
"Jeff and Courteney would have absolutely loved this and they would love to see that everyone has loved on us and taken care of us," said Kim Trussell, Jeff's widow.
Jeff's brother, James Trussell, went on to say, "I ran with some of his ashes.... He would've done the same thing for me."
Proceeds from the 5K will benefit the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department, whose members were some of the first to respond to the crash last year.
Courteney's mother, Nancy Kaliszewski, said her faith and the community have helped her heal this past year.
"From the very beginning I've said I'm okay because I know where she is. For such a small girl, only being 4'9" and 100 lbs., that girl had faith that could move mountains," Nancy said.
At the event, the Blount County mayor declared Sept. 16 as "Hold On Be Strong" day.
Schaeffer, the driver of the SUV, will appear in federal court next month for sentencing on firearms charges. He faces at least 82 years in prison on the firearms convictions, and up to an additional 160 years in prison on robbery and drug trafficking convictions.
Schaeffer will then stand trial for the deadly collision.