The pastor of a Franklin church said Sunday was “unbelievable” after news that one of its buses had been involved in a crash that killed the bus driver.
“It’s the worst nightmare that a pastor with a bus ministry could have,” said Pastor Mark Crider of the Franklin Church, 704 S. River St., which is affiliated with the Church of God.
He said the bus driver, Archie Cheesman “had an amazing heart” and had “great sense of humor.”
“We’re still stunned,” Crider said. “This was a huge part of the church.”
Cheesman, 59, of Hamilton, was driving the 2003 Bluebird Bus when he died in a two-vehicle crash about 9:09 a.m. Sunday at Dixie Highway and Manchester Road in Franklin Twp. The bus was owned by the Franklin Church and had 25 to 30 people on board, ranging in age from two months to 41 years, at the time of the crash, according to troopers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol’s Lebanon post.
The driver of the other vehicle, Amber M. Payne, 39, of Middletown, was treated for minor injuries.
Other area churches supplied vans to get the bus passengers home following the crash, Crider said. He said there were two passengers who received medical attention and were released.
“Everyone else is fine,” he said.
Cheesman is being remembered for his faith. Bill Fugate, volunteer director at Serving Homeless Alternate Lodging Of Middletown (SHALOM), a church-based homeless shelter, called Cheesman “just simply one of the finest Christian men” he has known.
Cheesman served as SHALOM coordinator at Franklin Church of God, Fugate said.
“It is very easy, and certainly understandable, to question why a man like Archie had to leave us at the age of just 59,” Fugate said. “But Archie would be the first to assure you that God has a plan and that he will even use this tragic accident to further his kingdom. I have never known a man who was more prepared for his time to leave this life and begin his eternal life than Archie was.”
Fugate said Cheesman died doing exactly what he loved to do.
“He was unbelievably dedicated to the church bus ministry at Franklin Church of God,” Fugate said. “He touched and blessed the lives of more people, especially children, than most of us ever will. Archie was a very humble man who had a wonderful Christian testimony which he loved to share with others.”
Crider said Cheesman served as a volunteer bus driver for the past six years.
“He owned Middletown Transmission and served breakfast to neighborhood kids around his shop and got them on the bus. He also brought those kids to our church,” Crider said. “The world lost a great man when they lost that guy. It was unbelievable how he helped these people.”
A sign and flowers were seen at Cheesman’s shop on Monday.
Crider said Cheesman, who was married with grown children, was always helping others and taking in children in need. He said Cheesman was known to help people in the neighborhood with rent, utility bills and buying groceries.
“It was unbelievable how he helped these people,” Crider said. “He did a men’s breakfast once a month at the church and took up collections to help an orphanage in the Bahamas. He started a missionary trip to that orphanage. I went on two trips while Archie went there on his own for four years.”
Crider said Cheesman also organized people to visit local nursing homes to sing, have Bible study and visit with the residents each month.
With Cheesman’s death, Crider said he is not sure of the future of his church’s bus ministry and thinks they may “grow a van ministry” instead.
“I have a lot of respect for people who drive buses because of the difficulty in getting a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License),” he said.
Crider said funeral arrangements for Cheesman are still pending.
Sgt. Christina Hayes of the highway patrol’s Lebanon post said troopers are interviewing passengers and witnesses to obtain additional information as they investigated the cause of the crash.
“With that many passengers, it will take some time to complete,” Hayes said.
Doyle Burke, Warren County chief coroner’s investigator, said an autopsy was conducted and the family was notified that the cause of Cheesman’s death was blunt force trauma from injuries sustained in the crash.
“It was impossible to tell if there were any other factors were involved in his death,” Burke said.
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