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Electrocution death leaves community mourning pastor

Nov. 1, 2005

by TIFFANIE BLACKMON, staff writer

The Baylor community grieved Monday over the death of the Rev. Kyle Lake during a baptismal service Sunday at University Baptist Church.

Lake, 33, was electrocuted as he reached to adjust a microphone while stepping into the water of the baptistery in front of about 800 churchgoers. Attendance at Sunday's service was larger due to visitors in town for Baylor Homecoming weekend.

"This is not something that ever happens," said Traci Dempsey, a Spring senior who has attended UBC since her freshman year. "Actually being there at that moment, all we could do is pray."

Dempsey described the tragic accident as unbelievable and shocking.

"It's just hard to put into words," Dempsey said. Witnesses at the church said doctors in attendance at the service rushed to Lake to begin administering CPR. Others members of the congregation rushed to call 9-1-1.

News stations in the Waco area reported that members of the congregation Sunday were concerned as to why it took so long for emergency medical services' ambulances to arrive at the church.

"We had two ambulances sent to (UBC)," said James Stef-ka, director of operations for East Texas Medical Center EMS Ambulances, which took Lake to Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center.

"The first arrived within five minutes of the call's reception and a second ambulance arrived seven minutes later," he said.

Response time is measured from the time a phone call is received to the time emergency personnel arrived on the scene. How long it takes witnesses to make the call to services such as EMS is where discrepancies regarding response time may occur, Stefka said.

Lake was declared dead at 11:30 a.m.

Erika Myers, a Tacoma, Wash., senior, said she was in shock and "still couldn't believe it happened."

Both Myers and Dempsey say what attracted them to UBC was Lake's ability to reach out to younger audiences such as the college-age crowd. They said they were drawn to his ability to preach the gospel in a way young people could understand and easily relate to their own lives.

"(Sunday) we had a prayer service at the First Baptist Church, and our community pastor at UBC said he had no definitive answers (as to what the church would do) right now, but that (Lake) would want us to go on," said Myers, who baby-sits Lake's 5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old twin sons.

A thousand people were estimated to have attended that prayer service, according to The Associated Press.

Mourners gathered Monday at the Wilkerson-Hatch Bailey Funeral Home on Bosque Boulevard. An additional viewing will be held at noon today at First Baptist Church on Fifth and Clay streets.

Funeral services for Lake will follow at 1:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church.

UBC, which is located at 17th Street and Dutton Avenue, will hold services for the upcoming week at Truett Seminary while an investigation regarding the cause of the accident is ongoing.

Baylor issued a statement at 4 p.m. Monday stating, "Our focus at this time is to mourn the loss of Kyle Lake and to celebrate his life with his family, the University Baptist Church congregation and the community.

As Dempsey reflected on why a poignant pastoral figure such as Lake had to be taken at such a young age, she remembered some of his words.

"As we leave this place, as we love God, embrace beauty and live life to the fullest," Dempsey said, quoting Lake.

"This whole thing was an eye-opener. You never know when life will end," she said.

Dempsey said she understands God has a purpose for everything he does but admitted it was hard to understand exactly what that was in this situation.

"We know he's in a good place in the house of God," Dempsey said.

On behalf of Baylor's University Ministries, Interim University Chaplain Byron Weathersbee, a friend of Lake, issued a statement saying, "The Baylor Family is deeply grieved by Kyle's death. Not only have we lost a local pastor to students, but also a friend and visionary voice."

Lake began pastoring at UBC in 1999 after receiving a bachelor's degree in speech communications from Baylor in 1994 and a master's of divinity from the George W. Truett Theological Seminary in 1997.

Lake also penned two books that dealt with matters of religion: Understanding God's Will: How to Hack the Equation without Formula and Understanding Prayer.

In leiu of flowers, donations may be made to University Baptist Church.