DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — The Dayton community is mourning the loss of a local pastor who was tragically killed while on vacation in Florida.
Associate Pastor for Hopeland Church and Founder of Simple Street Ministry Joel Burton was hit and killed by a car Sunday morning. His close friend Zeb Dill was also hit and is in critical, but stable condition in the hospital.
“I’m going to miss him, miss Joel,” said Hopeland Church Pastor Chris Allen. “He was a good person and a great friend.”
According to the Fort Walton Beach Police Department, a 20-year-old man was traveling east on Miracle Strip Parkway and struck Burton and Dill while they were crossing eastbound lanes of Highway 98. Burton was pronounced dead on scene and Dill was transported to HCA Fort Walton Destin Hospital where he is being treated for injuries.
“I forgive the man who did this. I hope I get to meet him so that I can show him who Jesus is. I forgive him and do not hold it against him.”
These were the words of Zeb Dill to Pastor Chris Allen this morning as Dill laid in a hospital bed contemplating the tragic events that took the life of his best friend just hours earlier.
“I talked to Zeb pretty quickly after it happened and he was in the hospital, his leg split open,” said Pastor Allen. “He said he tried to get to him, ‘I saw him but I couldn’t get to him.’ His leg was split open, blood everywhere, he tried pulling himself across the asphalt but he couldn’t reach him.”
Burton founded Simple Street Ministries to walk the streets of Dayton to reach people who had been written off by society. Allen said Burton had personally brought hundreds of people to know Christ.
“He cared for what was happening for people with addictions, people who were being written off as unimportant or on the margins of life, he was right there and told them they were important, they mattered and wanted to be there with them,” said Pastor Allen.
Simple Street has been vandalized twice recently, but in the face of utter disaster and ruin, Joel Burton always saw the glass half full.
Hopeland Church has set up a fundraiser here, donations will be directly given to the families of Joel Burton and Zeb Dill. Click here for more information.