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Local prison chaplain killed in car accident

A Laurens resident died Monday morning in a two-vehicle crash at the intersection of Highway 76 and Barnes Road in Laurens County.

Stuart Allen Edmisten, of Wilson Road in Laurens, wrecked just before 8 a.m. and was flown by helicopter to Greenville Memorial Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 9:40 a.m.

Edmisten was the prison chaplain at the Tyger River Correctional Institution in Enoree and known to both staff and inmates at the facility as “Chaplain E.”

“He was such a wonderful man,” Tyger River Correctional Institution Warden Laura Caldwell said. “I’ve seen the last two days more inmates and more staff shed tears than I have in quite some time.”

The cause of death was determined to be blunt-force trauma to the chest, according to Laurens County Assistant Coroner Vicki Cheek.

Edmisten, 56, driving a 1999 Mazda Protégé, collided with a minivan at the intersection of Barnes Road and Highway 76. Both drivers were wearing seat belts and no other injuries were reported, according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.

The accident occurred about a half-mile from the victim’s residence.

According to Edmisten’s Facebook page, he studied religion at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and graduated from seminary at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C.

Caldwell said Edmisten could have chosen other paths in ministry, but felt called to the prison chaplaincy.

“He was such an integral part of the (inmates’) lives and bringing them to fruition,” she said. “What society often sees as throwaways, he saw their potential as productive members of society.”

A celebration of his life will be held on Thursday, May 11, at 4 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Clinton.

The S.C. Highway Patrol is still investigating the incident.

The fatality is the 16th on Laurens County highways in 2017.

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