Church raising money for family of missing barge worker

CARUTHERSVILLE, MO (KAIT) - The First Baptist Church in Caruthersville is raising money for one of the missing barge workers' families.

Juan Nieves, a member of the church, was the sole provider for his wife and five young children.

"Juan was a very caring, loving father, husband, a hard worker," church member Pam Peeler said. "He was very focused on his family and the needs of his family. Always spoke highly of his family, but most of all, his children."

The Nieves family is a big part of Peeler's life. She, along with many others in the Caruthersville community, has looked after the Nieves children since they were little.

Peeler said their grief has affected the entire city.

"They're still holding on to hope," Peeler said. "They listen for him and they watch for him. They're missing their father very much. Nighttime is the worst when it's time to go to bed."

Now the family is trying to do the unimaginable: put aside their grief and move on.

"It's a whole new way of life for them, the provider being removed from the home," Peeler said. "You're faced with the financial responsibility of raising your children alone."

To lessen this financial burden, the church is taking donations to go straight to the family.

"Meet the needs for the family like rent, utilities, gas, groceries," Peeler said.

Money has started rolling in, including a donation from Nieves' company.

"Kinder Morgan called me this morning and said they had made a sizeable donation to our church to help out for the next couple of months," Peeler said. "We'll see what comes about after that."

Nieves' coworkers are also trying to cope with their loss.

"We forget about those that were there, saw it and could not do anything so we also want to remember them in our prayers," Peeler said. "They take that home with them and try to deal with it every day. It's hard."

Peeler hopes this tragedy will change barge operations. She said two lives lost is two, too many.

"This should never happen again to another family," Peeler said. "It will take a village to help this grieving family."

If anyone would like to help the Nieves family, send a check to First Baptist Church made out to "The Nieves Family Fund."

The church is located at 801 Ward St., Caruthersville, MO 63830.

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