Indian American pastor Mathew Vellankal of the Diocese of Oakland, California, and Archbishop Dominic Jala, who was visiting from Shillong, were instantly killed at the scene Oct. 10 afternoon as their vehicle collided with a big rig near Williams, Calif.
A third person, Father Joseph Parekkatt, pastor of St. Anne Parish in Walnut Creek, was airlifted to Santa Rosa Hospital and remains in stable condition.
Officer Franco Castillo, of the Williams area office of the California Highway Patrol, told India-West that Vellankal, who was driving a white Prius and going westbound on Rte 16, came to a stop at the junction for Highway 20. He then pulled into the intersection. The driver of the big rig, three axle semi with a trailer, Walter Loscutoff, was unable to stop in time and broadsided Vellankal’s vehicle on the left side, according to Castillo.
No charges are being filed against Loscutoff, said Castillo. “It appears that the driver of the Prius was clearly at fault,” he said, noting that the investigation into the accident remains ongoing.
Sanjay Panda, India’s consul general for the West Coast, told India-West that Jala’s body remains with the coroner and will be flown back to India for a funeral once a death certificate is obtained.
Jala was the Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Shillong and the Apostolic Administrator of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Nongstoin, India. He was born in Mawlai, Meghalaya in 1951 and was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1977 as a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid tribute to the deceased Archbishop. “Anguished by the passing away of Most Rev. Dominic Jala, the Archbishop of Shillong. He will be remembered for his impeccable service to society and passion towards Meghalaya’s progress. May his soul rest in peace,” said the prime minister in a tweet Oct. 11.
Funeral arrangements for Vellankal were still pending, as of press time Oct. 16, according to the Diocese of Oakland.
Don Bosco India reported that Jala had just met with the Pope prior to coming to California to meet Vellankal, an old friend. The three men drove to Clear Lake for a mini vacation and were heading back to the San Francisco Bay Area when the accident occurred.
Born in Ayavana, Kerala, Vellankal was also ordained as a member of the Salesians of Don Bosco.
His previous assignments included Queen of All Saints, Concord; Our Lady of Guadalupe, Fremont; Holy Spirit, Fremont; and St. Bonaventure, Concord, all in Northern California.
The popular pastor was also a magician, which he used in parish fund-raising, according to a statement by the Diocese of Oakland. He is the author of “From Humor to Inspiration: Jokes, Reflections, and Quotes to Enliven Your Day,” published in 2005.
The Diocese expressed its condolences to the many parishioners both holy men had served. “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon the. May their soul and the soul of all the Faithful Departed through the mercy of God rest in peace,” said the church in a statement.
Hundreds of people expressed their condolences for Vellankal and Jala on social media.