Moab loses ‘Padre Espiritual’ in car crash; suspect faces manslaughter charge

Pregnant woman involved in crash gave birth same night

Vilsar Camey, in front, died in a car crash on Sunday. His son Israel, right, was in the car with him at the time and was flown to a hospital in Salt Lake City with “life threatening” injuries after the crash, according to police. Photo courtesy of Andrea Infante

According to Moab Police Chief Bret Edge, local pastor Vilsar Camey died at the age of 45 in Sunday’s car crash on Main Street, and his 10-year-old son, Israel was flown to Salt Lake City in critical condition after the collision.

Katherine Sawyer, 30, was injured in the crash and driven to Moab Regional Hospital shortly after the collision to be treated. Sawyer told The Times-Independent that she gave birth later that night, one month before her due date. The baby, Abigail, was born by C-section with trauma-related injuries as a result of the collision.

The suspect in the case, 42-year-old Benjamin Thomas Balls, was also injured in the collision. He was transported to the hospital after, according to police, climbing out of his truck following the crash. He was charged with two felonies, including manslaughter and eight other charges and infractions.

The victims

Vilsar Camey, who died in a car crash Sunday, is survived by his two sons Israel, left, and Samuel. Photo courtesy of Andrea Infante
Monica Camey lost her late husband Vilsar in a car crash Sunday. Photo courtesy of Andrea Infante

Vilsar is survived by his wife, Monica, Israel and his other son Samuel. A GoFundMe campaign started by Andrea Infante is raising funds for the grieving family to cover funeral and hospital expenses for the father and son. Zion’s Bank also has a donation account open in the family’s name.

Infante said on the fundraiser page that the community had “an irreparable tragedy in losing a brother and Spiritual Father.” Vilsar was the pastor of Iglesia Principe De Paz, a church in Moab.

“Monica Camey and Samuel Camey are defeated by the loss of their husband and father and the critical status of their son and brother,” Infante said on the fundraiser page. “Let us join together in support and prayer!”

Sawyer said her child was flown to Grand Junction after being born; her husband met up with doctors and the baby there. Sawyer sustained no major injuries during the collision; the baby was born premature with trauma-related injuries.

Sawyer said she was hopeful she could visit with her child by the end of the week.

The suspect

Benjamin Thomas Balls

Sunday night, police dispatch received two 911 calls about a white truck driving recklessly on Highway 191, including reporting that the truck was speeding and running vehicles off the road while driving in the center lane.

A Utah Highway Patrol officer located the reported vehicle traveling northbound on Highway 191 and, since the truck was allegedly traveling 78 mph in a 55 mph zone, attempted to initiate a traffic stop.

The officer reported that the vehicle ran a red light entering into Moab City limits, so he terminated his pursuit “as not to pursue through town,” according to a police report.

A witness said that the suspect sped through the intersection at 400 East and Main Street with the trooper following. The witness said that the suspect had narrowly missed a vehicle turning onto the highway.

The Highway Patrol officer reported that, when he ended the chase, he had been following at 102 mph with the vehicle “pulling away from him,” according to a court document.

Benjamin Thomas Balls was driving the white pickup truck shown in this photo that has its nose to the building. To its right, out of view, is a maroon SUV that Katherine Sawyer had been driving prior to the collision. Further down the road in that direction is another SUV that Camey had been driving prior to the collision. Photo by Carter Pape

A deputy with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office reportedly saw the vehicle traveling approximately 80 mph as it entered a 30 mph zone then watched it start to brake as it collided with a vehicle turning left at the intersection of Main and Center streets.

Police allege that Balls was “crawling out of the passenger seat and found under the vehicle” after the collision. They took him to the hospital for evaluation, where Balls allegedly said he had not been wearing a seat belt.

Camey and his son were in the car that Balls allegedly hit first; Sawyer had been driving the vehicle that Balls hit second. Sawyer’s SUV came to a stop directly next to Balls’s white pickup truck; the vehicle Camey had been driving came to a stop further down the block.

Camey and his son were inside the vehicle shown here when a driver that police said had been speeding through town collided with him, killing Camey and putting his son in critical condition. Photo by Carter Pape

Police did not charge Balls with any drug-related crimes; he faces charges for manslaughter, not responding to officers’ signals to stop, criminal mischief, reckless driving, providing false information to police and infractions for running two red lights, unsafe lane travel and failure to operate within one lane.

Balls prior had been charged on Jan. 27 in Cache County with violation of a protective order.

This story has been updated with a more recent booking photo of the suspect, additional details about the victims in the collision and information about the charges the suspect faces.