RENSSELAER | By the flickering light of candles, members of this small tight-knit community came together on Good Friday evening to remember three of their own lost in a tragic vehicle accident Monday morning.
Dr. Mallik Chaganti, 45, a physician at the Clinic of Family Medicine in Rensselaer and on the staff of Jasper County Hospital, died in the crash on snow-slick southbound I-65, about 3 miles south of the Roselawn exit, along with two of his children Anusha Chaganti, 14, and Vivek Chaganti, 9.
Both children were students at St. Augustine Catholic School in Rensselaer. The Chaganti family is from India and of the Hindu faith.
The 8 p.m. candlelight vigil on the north side of the Jasper County Courthouse dovetailed with the ecumenical Good Friday worship service, said the Rev. Donald Davison of St. Augustine Catholic Church.
Davison credited the Rev. Elizabeth Hartmann of the city’s First Christian Church Disciples of Christ with the idea for the candlelight vigil honoring the Chaganti’s lives after the Good Friday worship service.
“It was appropriate,” Hartmann said about the candlelight vigil prior to attending the event.
“In this season of Lent we experience lament. These are senseless deaths,” she said. “There is a need for the community to grieve and to do so together.”
Nothing is currently known about funeral arrangements for the father and his two children.
Chaganti’s wife was traveling to India to visit family members and wasn’t informed about the deaths until she landed in that country, according to Jasper County Coroner Dr. Andrew Boersma
A third child in the car, a boy, survived and was transported to Jasper County Hospital, Boersma said in earlier published reports. The boy suffered broken bones, he said. Police said his injuries were not life-threatening.
“We may not be able to experience a funeral (for the family), but we can come together as a community of faith,” Hartmann said.
“We want this to be an inclusive gathering and to do this as a community,” she said.