Church destroyed by fire caused by hit-and-run driver will be rebuilt

(WMC-TV) – A Memphis church is destroyed after a fire that began after a hit-and-run driver hit a utility pole, knocking the electric wires onto the church.

The Gateway Church of God in Christ on Ketchum Road sits in ruins after flames consumed it late Tuesday night.

"Kind of a sense of loss, a sense of grief. Almost like losing a family member," said Pastor Perry Little.

"I've been here my whole life, raised from child birth. It's like this is my home away from home," said church member Kellie Chandler.

Firefighters got the call just after 9 p.m. Witnesses told police a gray pick-up truck slammed into a utility pole, then sped away with heavy front-end damage.

"Yeah, he kept going. He hit it and turned around and kept going. Yeah, he did some Fast and the Furious. He was up outta here," said Victoria Davenport, who witnessed the crash.

After the utility pole fell on the church, live electrical wires ignited the massive two-alarm fire. The entire building was torched.

There were five people inside the church for choir rehearsal at the time.

"There were people in the church. You could've killed somebody, and yet you just turn and leave? That's not being responsible at all," said Pastor Little.

On a better note, none of the choir singers were injured and all made it out of the building safely.

The utility pole was replaced but the church remains a burned shell. But members are not discouraged.

"This may be an ending, but we got a new beginning coming up. And when it happens, we gonna be ready for it," said Chandler.

The church plans to rebuild in the same place.

Gateway will still hold a church service at 11 a.m. on Sunday at the Memphis Athletic Grizzlies Athletic Center on Ball Road.

Meanwhile, police are still searching for the driver who caused this devastation. If you have any information about the crash and fire, please contact Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.