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Man Charged After Car Crashes Through Wall Of Long Island Church

BALDWIN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A car smashed through the wall of a Long Island church hours before Sunday services.

The crash happened around 4:30 a.m. Sunday at the Second Baptist Church on Grand Avenue in Baldwin, police said.

Photos show the car, a 2008 Infiniti G35, tilted on its side at a roughly 45-degree angle and resting with its front wedged in the church's wall. It has since been removed, leaving a jagged hole in the wall.

Nearby, a row of trees was mowed down with the branches covering a toppled sign. The fence out front did nothing to hold back the car, CBS2's Dave Carlin reported.

Baldwin Church Crash
A car smashed into the Second Baptist Church in Baldwin, N.Y., on March 8, 2015. (credit: Ginny Kosola/WCBS 880)

"It was a big bang, it shook us out of bed," neighbor Debbie O'Rourke said. "Very scary because a lot of people walk over there."

Authorities said the driver and a 20-year-old man in the passenger seat somehow got out of the car and fled the scene.

The passenger was then dropped off by another vehicle at South Nassau Communities Hospital, CBS2's Ilana Gold reported.

It wasn't until Sunday evening that Nassau police said they arrested the driver, identified as 21-year-old Sherif Wheeler, of Baldwin.

Police said Wheeler surrendered to detectives at the First Precinct.

Car Crashes Through Wall Of Long Island Church

Pastor Harrison Drinks rushed over to the church minutes after the crash.

"(When you came here, what did you think when you saw this? Oh, we said 'Thank God no one was hurt,'" Drinks said.

"It didn't go into the sanctuary at least, thank God," a member of the congregation told WCBS 880's Ginny Kosola.

The church had to move its services to its new building across the street that's still under construction.

"Thank God no one was there because sometimes we get here sometimes early, like between 6:30-7 o'clock," said Diane Pippins.

As crews fix the gaping hole, the congregation is focusing on moving forward.

"We're a strong church and we're hanging in there," Pippins said.

Pastor Drinks said they hope to re-open the church by next Sunday.

Wheeler is charged with leaving the scene of an incident with an injury and operating a vehicle without a proper license, police said.

He was admitted to a local hospital and is due in court later this month.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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