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Police: Car crashes into Baldwin church, driver flees but is arrested later

The driver of a 2008 Infiniti G35 crashed

The driver of a 2008 Infiniti G35 crashed into the Second Baptist Church in Baldwin Sunday, March 8, 2015, Nassau police said. Credit: Paul Mazza

A car flew through the wall of a Baldwin church early Sunday morning, Nassau police said, injuring a passenger, causing an estimated $100,000 in damage and forcing Sunday services to be held across the street.

There was severe damage to the vehicle and the Second Baptist Church, Nassau police said.

A Baldwin man was arrested hours after fleeing the scene of the 4:25 a.m. crash. Police said the driver of a blue 2008 Infiniti G35 traveling southbound on Grand Avenue lost control and struck a tree, a fence and then the church, at 2040 Grand Ave. But both the driver and the passenger fled, police said.

Detectives located the driver, identified by police as Sherif T. Wheeler, 21, of 1549 Kenneth Ave. Wheeler was charged with leaving the scene of a crash causing injury and operating a vehicle without a license.

Wheeler surrendered to police Sunday at the First Precinct and was not injured in the crash. He is set to be arraigned Monday at First District Court in Hempstead.

His 20-year-old passenger, who was not identified, was taken by a friend to a hospital for injuries suffered in the crash. He was not arrested.

Services went on across the street in a newly constructed church building that's due to open later this month.

Several of the approximately 100 congregants declined to comment, saying they had been directed by church officials to remain silent about the crash.

But during the service, Pastor Preston Drinks spoke to the congregation about the incident.

"Have you ever had life throw you some curveballs?" the pastor asked. "Have you ever had things happen that you weren't expecting? I think everyone in this room has at some point or another.

"We were not expecting this morning to wake up at 4:30 a.m. and find a car in the lobby of the church. Life has a way of hitting you with things you aren't expecting," he said.

Drinks said the fact that someone apparently was able to survive such an impact and leave the scene on their own is almost a miracle.

He said whoever crashed the vehicle "careened into the air and into the church."

"It's unbelievable that you're able to walk off from that. Only God. Only God," Drinks had said before the service began.

"Just as it has become a pivotal turning point in our lives, it will become a turning point in their lives."

Construction inspector Neal Lennstrom, whose crew had been working on the new building across the street, was at the scene Sunday morning assessing the damage.

He estimated repair costs at roughly $100,000 for the replacement of steel beams, walls, masonry, framing and electrical wiring.

Anyone with information on the crash can call police at 800-244-8477.

With John Asbury

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