FRONT ROYAL - Although a crash hospitalized a driver and left a gaping hole in the First Assembly of God church’s brick exterior, the situation could have been a lot worse.

On Thursday, Frank Amari, 48, of Strasburg, blacked out while driving his pickup truck. He crossed the centerline of Shenandoah Avenue, popped a curb, ran over shrubbery and crashed into the church. Police reported that no alcohol was involved.

On Tuesday, it was deemed safe to remove the truck and Audrey Sterling, who is married to the church’s pastor, said although Amari may have a difficult time, he seems to be on the path to recovery.

Associate Pastor Nick Croft said church members “rejoice that the driver is recovering.”

“It will be a long and painful process, but we are filled with joy that the driver survived and will recover,” he said.

Now that the truck has been extricated from the wall, Nick Croft said the next step is to board up the opening “to keep the elements and animals out." Then, he said additional support must be added and a water line break must be capped. He added that it is hard to say exactly how much damage was caused, but the church’s insurance should cover everything.

Sterling noted that Amari’s point of impact was in the center of two support beams and if he had hit “just a little further” to the left or right “it could have been a lot worse.”

She said everyone is “just thankful that he’s alive” because “the whole building could have come down on him.” She added that there were some “really ugly” comments on Facebook regarding the incident, so the church reached out to Amari’s family to “let them know that we’re with them.”

Despite those negative comments, Sterling said “the whole community is behind them and they’re extremely loved” and “Front Royal’s a good place, it’s a family.”

James Miller, who is assisting with repairs, said it is amazing how much more devastating the wreck could have been.

“I know one thing, the lord was with him. Most people would have died. If he would have been another 16, 18 inches to his left, he would have hit that beam head-on...God was with him. I’m not a big religious man, but he had an angel on his shoulder,” he said.

Susan Croft, Nick Croft’s wife, said it is also fortunate that the wreck occurred on Thursday because schools had a two-hour weather delay. Had that not been the case, she said some parents would have come to the church after dropping their children off at school and been in harm's way.

“It’s a miracle,” she said.

Once the church's water is back on, Nick Croft said Sunday services – held last week at Love Revival Ministries – should be able to return home this weekend.

– Contact Josh Gully at jgully@nvdaily.com