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Car loses control, kills man in front church

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ORCHARD FARM, MO (KTVI) –  A freak accident Thursday morning in St. Charles County takes the life of a man doing yard work.

He was struck and killed when a car went out of control. It happened around 7:30 North Highway 94 and Church road.  A car went into a spin, rolled over and hit a 59-year-old Valente Zapata.  He was doing yard work at Trinity Lutheran Church.  Zapata was dead at the scene.

Sgt. Al Nothum works with the Missouri Highway Patrol.  Nothum said, "We believe the roadways were wet this morning. We don`t know if it was rain or dew, but they were damp and wet at this point we think the car hydroplaned but the investigation is continuing."

The driver was taken to the hospital.

Zapata was from Mexico. He was here earning money for his family back home.  The owner of his lawn care company said everyone at the business is saddened.  She said Zapata was like family to them.

The pastor of the church said when he and his family moved into the parsonage in 1986, they were awakened often by crashes.  Reverend Doug Gaunt said, "I`d say ten to twelve accidents a year for about a ten year period."  It was so dangerous he wouldn`t let his kids play in the front yard. He became somewhat of an expert on the curve in Highway 94.  Reverend Gaunt said, "If it`s damp at all it`s really easy to lose traction.  When people try to correct if they get a wheel off on the edge of the road and then overcompensate, it`s really easy to lose control."

He said improvements to the road have been made, including widening the highway, changing the contour of the ditch and installing a rumble strip down the center lane. He believes the accident rate has dropped by more than half.  Still, he advises people to be careful.   Reverend Gaunt`s church is reaching out to the victim`s family friends and coworkers.  Gaunt said, "Be a help and support to them because I know they are all devastated, there`s no doubt about that."

The driver had just dropped her child off at school. She was treated and released from St. Joseph Health Center. Sgt. Nothum said it`s too early to talk about possible charges. Nothum called it a senseless accident.

A fund for Valente Zapata has been setup at 1st State Bank on 5th street in St. Charles.