Dayton woman credits God for saving her life after tree crashes through vehicle

Hunter Wilburn looks at the damaged vehicle of his mother, Denise, following a freak accident Tuesday in which a tree crashed through her vehicle as she was driving along FM 1008 near Kenefick.

By Vanesa Brashier,

Denise Wilburn of Dayton says she was praying for friends and family Tuesday at the exact moment when a large tree fell through her vehicle, narrowly missing her and crushing most of the vehicle’s cabin.

Wilburn, 61, the wife of Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Larry Wilburn, was driving her Chrysler Aspen SUV along FM 1008 near Kenefick when the tree brought her vehicle to an abrupt stop.

“I saw branches coming through my window and then there was a big boom, which was the tree landing on the passenger side. There was smoke and glass everywhere,” she said. “I looked around and there was no roof on my car. A few minutes later, I heard a man come up and say, ‘Are you okay?’ There was a question mark in his voice. I wasn’t sure at the time if I was okay.”

With the man’s help and encouragement, Wilburn was freed from the vehicle.

“I had to push myself out over tree limbs. The men was reaching up for me and helped me to stand. I walked over to his truck and sat inside until Liberty County EMS arrived,” she said. “Those great people just over and all I had to do was relax after that. They got me in the ambulance and started working on me. My face was pretty banged up.”

She was airlifted from the scene by LifeFlight to Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston. Doctors ran a CT scan to check for bleeding and internal damage, but none was found.

“I have nine stitches, a black eye and bruising to my right cheek, but I am otherwise okay,” Wilburn said. “The doctors told me to rest for a couple of days, so that is what I am doing. I guess God knew I needed a little rest.”

Wilburn believes that “God and his angels” were looking out for her Tuesday as a few inches difference could have resulted in a very different outcome.

She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but she had the right protection.

“I was kind of sitting in a little bubble inside the vehicle. Everything else was destroyed,” she said. “My husband is calling it the Miracle on FM 1008 and I think he’s right.”

Judge Wilburn, who as justice of the peace has had to witness many tragedies from auto accidents, is marveling at his wife’s survival.

“What are the odds that a tree would fall at the very moment she drove past and you walk out with barely a scratch? I don’t think she understands yet that she is a miracle and is inspiring people,” he said. “We are still trying to wrap our heads around it. No one can figure out how she got out of that alive. We are giving all the credit to God.”

Pct. 4 Justice of the Peace Larry Wilburn and Denise have been married for 42 years.
(Photo is courtesy of the Wilburns)

The Wilburns, who have been married for 42 years, say that they plan to be at Food Truck Friday in Dayton on Jan. 25. The couple doesn’t want to disappoint the people who have supported their catering business, Pappy’s Barbecue.

“I think people need to see I am all right despite the bruises and black eye,” Denise said.

The near-death experience has not shaken her faith in God. Instead it has fortified it.

“I’ve always felt like I am good at praying. Maybe I just need to be that prayer warrior for people,” she said. “I think that is my purpose.”

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(All photos are courtesy of Judge Larry Wilburn and Denise Wilburn.)

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Before creating Bluebonnet News in 2018, Vanesa Brashier was a community editor for the Houston Chronicle/Houston Community Newspapers. During part of her 12 years at the newspapers, she was assigned as the digital editor and managing editor for the Humble Observer, Kingwood Observer, East Montgomery County Observer and the Lake Houston Observer, and the editor of the Dayton News, Cleveland Advocate and Eastex Advocate. Over the years, she has earned more than two dozen writing awards, including Journalist of the Year.

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